Leading energy retailer EnergyAustralia today announced one of Australia’s largest solar power purchase agreements to underpin development of the 142-megawatt (MW) capacity Ross River Solar Farm in Queensland.
The power purchase agreement (PPA) is the second in EnergyAustralia’s $1.5 billion program to buy around 500 MW of power from new wind and solar energy projects across eastern Australia. In December EnergyAustralia announced it had agreed to secure all the electricity produced by a 48.5 MW solar farm at Manildra in regional New South Wales until 2030.
Under a 13-year foundation contract EnergyAustralia will buy 80% of the electricity generated by the c.$225 million Ross River Solar Farm, near Townsville, one of Australia’s largest solar projects in development. The farm will provide enough emissions-free, renewable energy to power approximately 52,000 homes a year.
“Providing reliable, affordable and cleaner supplies of energy has never been more important than it is today,” said EnergyAustralia Managing Director Catherine Tanna.
“As an owner of coal-fired power stations EnergyAustralia has a responsibility to provide leadership on the best, most cost-effective means of reducing emissions and addressing climate change. For us, that means broadening Australia’s energy mix by finding and supporting quality renewable projects, like the Ross River Solar Farm, on behalf of our customers,” she said.
Ms Tanna said new projects like the Ross River Solar Farm will come to underpin energy supply in Australia as coal-fired power plants are retired.
The project, located on a disused mango planation, is jointly owned by infrastructure manager Palisade Investment Partners and solar farm developer ESCO Pacific. The site was selected because of the high solar irradiance in the region, and its average 320 days of sunshine annually.
ESCO Pacific secured development approval for the solar farm from Townsville City Council in June 2016. Construction is expected to start in the first quarter of 2017 and will take about 12 months.
Palisade Chief Executive Officer Roger Lloyd congratulated EnergyAustralia on underpinning development of new supplies of cleaner energy.
“Palisade is delighted to be working with EnergyAustralia and ESCO Pacific to bring the Ross River Solar Farm to fruition,” Mr Lloyd said. “We have spent considerable time identifying a pipeline of high quality renewables projects to augment our existing wind assets and deliver robust cash flows for our investors.”
ESCO Pacific’s Managing Director Steve Rademaker said: “With Palisade’s investment in the project and the signing of a power purchase agreement with EnergyAustralia, the Ross River project has moved a significant step closer towards construction and operation.”
Ms Tanna said negotiations between EnergyAustralia and proponents of other solar and wind projects across eastern Australia were well advanced.
EnergyAustralia’s existing renewable energy programs include the rights to more than 450MW of electricity from wind farms in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, representing enough power to meet the electricity needs of 300,000 average homes for a year.
Its new $1.5 billion power purchase program will contribute toward the Australian Government’s Renewable Energy Target to have 23.5% of total energy in the national electricity market provided by renewable sources by 2020.