Spanish renewables developer X-Elio expects its 200 MW Blue Grass Solar Farm to achieve full commercial operations early this year after it reaches financial close for the project in Australia.
Renewable energy developer X-Elio said this week that it has achieved financial close for its 200 MW Blue Grass Solar Farm. Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) committed AUD 37 million ($26.7 million) toward the south-east Queensland project.
The CEFC invested in the project as part of a syndicate of lenders featuring Dutch-based financial group ING and Japanese financial institution Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. (SMBC).
The Blue Grass solar farm, located 14 kilometers west of Chinchilla in the Darling Downs Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), Queensland, is X-Elio’s first major project in Australia. It is also its largest to date and is expected to generate 420 GWh of green energy per year when complete.
X-Elio Australia Country Manager Belinda Fan said the Blue Grass solar project represents the opening phase of the company’s long-term interest in Australia’s energy transition, with full commercial operations expected in the first quarter of 2022.
“We’re thrilled to have achieved financial close for the Blue Grass Solar Farm – our largest solar project in Australia and one that strengthens our position in the domestic renewables market where we continue to pursue new growth opportunities,” she said. “This includes more than 600 MW of projects in our development pipeline which is growing exponentially each year. X-Elio is a global business with a local mindset, and we are committed to enhancing economic and social outcomes in the local communities and regions where we operate.”
CEFC Chief Executive Ian Learmonth said the government-owned green bank’s AUD 37 million investment in the project supports the “latest solar technology” to further strengthen the nation’s renewable energy grid while supporting the Australian Renewable Energy Agency-led (ARENA) “30 30 30” initiative that is designed to achieve ultra low-cost solar.
The initiative aims for solar PV to achieve 30% efficiency at AUD 0.30 per installed watt by 2030 and is expected to help drive down costs to meet the goal of solar electricity generation at AUD 15 per MWh.
The Blue Grass Solar Farm features an estimated 375,000 bifacial solar modules, which Learmonth said have an increased generation capacity compared with existing panels, as well as half-cut cell technology, which reduces the cell to half the normal size.
“Blue Grass Solar Farm will include the latest technology that this innovative sector can deliver and will truly be a solar farm for the 21st century,” he said.
Learmonth said the CEFC’s commitment is its 32nd solar farm investment since inception and a further demonstration of the critical role it plays in Australia’s transition to net zero emissions.
“This latest renewable energy investment demonstrates that CEFC expertise and capital is central to the ongoing evolution of the sector,” he said. “Since our earliest investments, the CEFC has been instrumental to the development of renewable energy capacity, which is pivotal to cutting emissions across our economy. With this latest investment we are proud to have contributed to the delivery of more than 3.5 GW of low-emissions generating capacity, including 2 GW of solar and 1.5 GW of wind. This clean energy will underpin our energy transition for generations to come.”
Learmonth said the investment builds on new renewable energy investment commitments by the CEFC of AUD 810 million in the 2020-21 period, representing a 53% increase on the AUD 529 million of the previous year.
“The transition to net-zero emissions requires substantial decarbonisation, at a much faster pace than we are currently achieving,” he said. “One of the most effective ways to do that is to fortify Australia’s renewable energy sector and reduce the cost of solar PV generation to help meet stretch targets for technologies such as green hydrogen, low-emissions steel and aluminum.”
X-Elio’s successful financial close for the Blue Grass Solar Farm comes more than one year after it announced a “landmark” virtual power purchase agreement” (VPPA) for the output of the solar plant with US-based software company Salesforce.
X-Elio said it had signed a 10-year agreement with Salesforce which will purchase 25% of the Blue Grass output, contributing to its commitment to reach 100% renewable energy by 2022. It is the US tech giant’s first renewable energy offtake agreement in Australia.
X-Elio, which is co-owned by US investment firms Brookfield and KKR, said the Blue Grass project represents the opening phase of the company’s long-term interest in Australia’s energy transition. It plans to leverage its 17 years of experience in the development, construction and operation of solar PV projects. It has already built 2.6 GW solar PV plants across more than 10 markets throughout the world.
X-Elio currently has 25 solar plants in operation in 13 countries, including the 42 MW Marcovia solar farm in Honduras and the Guanajuato solar farm in Mexico. The company is also developing the Forest Glen (120 MW) and Wunghnu (80 MW) solar farms in New South Wales and Victoria respectively.
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