Order Focus: First Solar hands framing contract for Australia’s largest PV projects to local company

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First Solar, set to construct what will be Australia’s two largest solar farms for gas and electricity retailer AGL Energy, has handed the contract for the framing systems for the two projects to a local company, IXL Group, in New South Wales.

The 102MW plant in Nyngan, and the 53MW plant at Broken Hill, were first announced in mid-2012, as part of the AU$770 million (US$819 million) Australian Solar Flagship Program run by the government. Construction on the Nyngan project is expected to begin in early 2014, to be ready for commercial operation in mid-2015, while construction of the power station at Broken Hill will begin in July 2014, to come online by the end of 2015.

IXL Group, which is headquartered in Geelong, New South Wales, consists of several companies including a high end lifestyle and interiors retailer and a foundry business. Various companies in the manufacturing arm will be responsible for work on the solar farms. Backwell IXL will supply a range of components for the framing system and IXL Solar in Adelaide will assemble and ship the framing system the relatively short distance to the projects. Around 40 local jobs will be created at IXL at the peak of construction.

IXL collaborated with First Solar previously on a 10MW project, Greenough River Solar Farm, which was Australia’s first completed utility-scale solar farm. Nyngan and Broken Hill will need a total of around 6,000 tonnes of steel for the framing system.

According to First Solar, the proximity of the company to the projects and the two companies’ previous experience of successfully working together was an advantage, providing the new projects with a “relatively shorter supply chain”. First Solar said that assembly locations for “other future projects will be based on the requirements of those projects”.

The projects reached financial closure in July this year. First Solar is responsible for design and construction, as well as engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services. The US thin-film company will also provide operations and maintenance support for the first five years of operation. Between the two plants, around 360,000MWh of electricity will be produced annually, enough to meet the demands of over 50,000 average New South Wales households.

Jack Curtis, First Solar vice president for business development, Asia-Pacific, said: “Our continued selection of local supply chain providers validates the economic viability of producing solar components in Australia and will continue to help support Australian industry and job creation. Partnering with IXL will further enable First Solar to reduce the cost of delivering solar power to the Australia market through the efficiencies that come from working on multiple projects.”

IXL Solar general manager Claude Dagescy said Australian-made framing systems “can be more than competitive with imports”.

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