US fund New Energy Solar acquires 87 MW Beryl

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Australian utility scale PV projects with long-term PPAs in place continue to attract investment funds. The latest deal sees New Energy Solar acquire the Beryl Solar Farm – which has yet to commence construction.

New Energy Solar, which is listed on the ASX as NEW, has investments in primarily U.S. large scale solar assets – although it is expanding its Australian holdings significantly with the Beryl deal. While NEW has an office and team in New York, lead by Tom Kline, the fund reports to pv magazine Australia that: “most of our investors are Australian”.

The price paid for Beryl has not been disclosed, however construction costs have been estimated at $187 million.

The project will use First Solar’s large-format Series 6 modules, which represent a major evolution of thin film PV. The 420 W modules, which are much bigger than previous First Solar Series 4 panels, address the BoS penalty that thin film producers had for some time – when more connectors, mounting structures and cabling was required for the same power output, when compared to crystalline silicon panels.

New Energy Solar clearly has an appetite for projects developed by the U.S. thin film giant, after having acquired the Manildra Solar farm in June. It will buy 49% of Beryl immediately and the remaining 51% once the project is completed – currently scheduled for mid-2019.

A 15-year PPA with a reliable offtaker was likely a major factor in getting the acquisition over the line for New Energy Solar. Transport for NSW will purchase 134,000 MWh from the project annually. The electricity will be used to power the Sydney Metro Northwest railway.

The PPA does not cover all of Beryl’s power production, which New Energy Finance indicates allows it to explore other markets for the electricity – including alternative PPAs or utilization via battery storage.

In a statement, NEW CEO John Martin pointed to the 15-year PPA as being longer than those currently being offered in the Australian marketplace.

“Beryl, New’s second investment in Australia, will further enhance the scale and contracted cashflows of our Australian portfolio,” said Martin. “Following the Manildra acquisition last month, we are delighted to be consolidating our relationship with First Solar through this second sizeable transaction in the Australian market.”

Downer Utilities will act as EPC on the Beryl Solar Farm. It began construction on the plant in May.

With the Beryl acquisition, New Energy Solar is heading towards a U.S. and Australian utility scale solar asset portfolio of 840 MW – totalling an investment of US$1.1 billion.

The article was amended on 24/7/2018 to reflect that NEW is an Australian listed company, with an office in New York.