Conergy financial close for solar + battery storage plant in Australia

Conergy, one of the world’s largest downstream solar companies, will commence construction this month on the first and largest utility-scale solar PV + battery storage project in Asia Pacific.

The AU$42.5 million Lakeland Solar and Storage (LSS) project located near Lakeland in North Queensland, Australia will consist of a 13MW solar array (featuring 41,440 solar panels) and a 1.4MW/5.3MWh Conergy “CHESS” storage solution.

This full-scale commercial power plant has been designed to research and analyse various plant operating modes and demonstrate grid to islanding functionality, the ability to consistently feed renewable energy into the grid and demonstrate the capability of utility scale solar + storage, paving the way for the future of solar baseload and the future of power quality and supply.

Construction activities are scheduled to begin later this month with commissioning planned for the end of April 2017. Once the plant is operational, it is expected to produce over 22,600 MWh/year, the equivalent electricity to power up over 3,000 homes during the day and night, while avoiding over 21,150 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The solar plant will be connected to Ergon Energy’s existing substation – one of the most remote National Electricity Market (NEM) linked substations in Australia.

The project was initially acquired from a local developer in 2015 and subsequently developed, designed, engineered and brought to financial close by Conergy’s APAC development team. Conergy’s EPC team will be leading the plant’s construction activities while the Asset Management team will assume responsibility for all technical and commercial post-commissioning activities.

The achievement of this milestone for the LSS follows the exceptional coordination and cooperation of a multitude of partners and advisers.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) extended an AU$17.4 million grant to the project. German bank NORD/LB has provided a 15-year non-recourse financing facility for the project, with Norton Rose Fulbright providing legal Counsel to Conergy. BHP Billiton will be joining Conergy, ARENA, Ergon Energy and Origin Energy in a Knowledge Sharing Program.

“Utility-scale solar and storage combined with effective management software is the Holy Grail of the global renewable energy industry, and with this project we are well within reach of it. This is an exciting opportunity to combine the latest developments in solar technology with utility-scale battery storage to feed consistent, quality power into the existing electricity grid particularly in fringe-of-grid locations, paving the way for this integrated model to be used more widely around the world,” according to David McCallum, Managing Director for Conergy Australia.

With Australia’s rich solar resources and relatively low RE penetration at 15 per cent (coal plants contribute 61 per cent of the country’s electricity generation) there remains an immense opportunity for traditional solar and solar-plus-storage plants. The increasing adoption of these solutions will not only confirm that solar is a commercially viable option but is also a mainstream solution for large scale power generation.

Alexander Lenz, President Conergy APAC said, “With the demand for reliable clean energy rising in Asia Pacific and elsewhere around the world, the success of this solar-plus-storage system is an important development for us. Solar farms have traditionally been built to produce power in the daytime and support power demand during peak hours, serving for most part as a peak shaving solution. But with our solar-plus-storage solution, intermittency is smoothened out, providing a dependable and stable power supply that is capable of dispatching energy 24/7.”

“The implications of this concept, of solar as a baseload solution are tremendous and even disruptive: not only can solar now replace some traditional baseload technologies but with the supply of more predictable and dependable energy blocks during the day and night, solar energy has now become even more tradeable, allowing solar investors to achieve a premium in energy markets for their power output and increasing their returns.”

Patrick Jaeger, Conergy’s Vice President for Development in APAC said: “We are very proud to announce our first non-recourse financial close in Australia. This success showcases Conergy’s exceptional capabilities in delivering value along the entire solar PV value chain, from early stage investment in development through to construction and ultimately long-term asset management. The highly complex structuring of the LSS transaction required seamless collaboration across multiple teams in APAC as well as excellent support from both NORD/LB and Norton Rose Fulbright.”

“Most solar PV markets in the region are only just starting to develop. Navigating and managing risks, red tape and local market idiosyncrasies is crucial. However, with the right team and skill set we see tremendous opportunity in solar, storage, hybrid and off-grid markets in APAC for the next decade and are committed to continue investing in growing teams and investment activities in APAC,” added Jaeger.

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