First Solar, Verve Energy and General Electric Energy Financial Services have started building work on Australia's first utility-scale solar power project. With a capacity of 10MW, the Greenough River Solar Farm is 10 times bigger than the largest operational solar project in the country and spans 80 hectares of cleared land 50 kilometres southeast of Geraldton.
First Solar will be carrying out all the engineering, procurement and construction duties on the flagship system and also supplying over 150,000 of its advanced thin-film modules. It will also be in charge of site operation and maintenance when building work is completed in mid-2012.
The electricity generated will contribute to offsetting the energy requirements of the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant near the town of Binningup, and The Water Corporation, which is building the desalination plant, has agreed to purchase all of the solar farm's output.
Western Australia-owned utility Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services will each own 50% of the farm, with the WA Government contributing AU$20 million towards its construction. No debt will be raised to fund the project.
“This announcement demonstrates the significant potential for renewable energy generation — especially utility-scale solar in WA and throughout Australia,” said First Solar’s Jim Brown. “We're pleased to bring our expertise in advanced PV technology and utility-scale solar deployment to Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services to deliver this groundbreaking project.”
For GE Energy Financial Services, the project represents its first renewable energy investment in Australia, adding to its 42-project strong US$400 million global portfolio of solar power equity and debt investments.
“This transaction enables us to apply our renewable energy investment expertise to a new market, add to our portfolio of projects with First Solar and to GE's broader work with Verve Energy,” GE Energy Financial Services' Australia business leader, Jason Willoughby, added. “This project also will support GE's ecomagination program, in our aim to help customers meet their environmental challenges.”