The first 400 MW stage of the New England Solar Farm near Uralla in New South Wales has reached financial close, thanks to debt financing from Bank of China, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Westpac.
Joint venture UPC/AC Renewables Australia (UPC Renewables and AC Energy) said that construction on the first stage of the project started at the end of 2020. The lead contractor, Spanish infrastructure development group Elecnor, started early works through its subsidiary, Green Light Contractors, with an initial focus on substation and road design.
The New England Solar Farm will eventually become a 720 MW solar installation combined with a 400 MWh battery energy storage system on site. It is hoped this first stage of the enormous project will be connected to the National Energy Market (NEM) and produce clean solar energy by July 2022. It is tentatively set to be fully operational by the end of 2023.
Of the 400 MWh lithium-ion battery storage facility planned for the site, UPC/AC Renewables plans for the first 50 MWh, which is supported by the New South Wales government’s AUD 75 million ($58.4 million) Emerging Energy Program, to be operational by mid-2022, along with the first stage of solar installation.
As the largest hybrid solar and battery project in Australia, the New England Solar Farm’s two solar fields sit within the area of the recently announced New England Renewable Energy Zone (REZ). However, the project was planned and had connection to transmission approved by TransGrid before the 8 GW REZ (the second to be set on a path to development by the New South Wales government) was announced in July 2020.
“It’s exciting to achieve financial close on a merchant basis for such a large project, which is the first of many such projects we have in Australia,” said UPC/AC Renewables Australia CEO Anton Rohner. “UPC/AC Renewables Australia views this project fitting into the New South Wales government roadmap and look forward to being engaged in this process to help lower electricity prices.”
UPC Renewables Executive Chairman Brian Caffyn added that this is “a very large energy project even for Australia and we are proud to be associated with the New England Solar Farm and the local community and helping to transition New South Wales toward a clean, lower cost energy future.”
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