Neoen clinches ‘landmark’ PPA to advance Australia’s largest solar farm

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Image: Neoen.

What intends to be Australia’s largest solar farm has edged one step closer to deployment after its developer Neoen clinched a major offtaker agreement.

Today (6 May 2020), Neoen signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) that will see government-owned energy company CleanCo Queensland buy power from 352MWp of solar, built under the Western Downs Green Power Hub.

The project – to be developed near Chinchilla in south east Queensland – is intended to be the country’s largest operational solar farm once complete, with a total output in the region of 460 – 480MWp.

Paris-headquartered Neoen said the arrangement stands among Australia’s most substantial renewable energy agreements to date. Meanwhile, utility CleanCo said it would provide more than 30% of the energy needed to meet its target of procuring 1GW of renewable generation by 2025.

Neoen confirmed that the agreement means that the AU$570 million (US$366 million) project could now advance to the build-phase, with construction slated to begin in July. The plant is expected to connect to Powerlink Queensland’s transmission network in Q1 2022.

Queensland debut to bring 400 jobs to post-COVID economy

Western Downs represents Neoen’s first project in Queensland, despite its already considerable presence in Australia. The firm will remain the developer, long-term owner and operator of the project.

Louis de Sambucy, managing director at Neoen Australia, said Western Downs would become a “lighthouse project” for the company, by delivering “excellent regional economic and local community outcomes” that will be vital in a post-COVID-19 economy.

Up to 400 local jobs will be supported throughout the project’s construction, while a community benefit fund has been established to invest AU$100,000 (US$64,000) in local initiatives each year throughout the project’s operational lifetime.

Australia continues to be a source of interest for the solar sector despite much-vaunted hurdles such as grid congestion. Late last month, existing constraints against five sizeable solar farms in Victoria and New South Wales were lifted after seven months, undoing curtailments that had effectively halved the output of those projects.

The country’s grid operator has however stressed Australia is ready to embrace much greater proliferation of renewables, indicating it will be ready to procure 75% of its power demand from wind and solar from 2025 onwards.

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