innogy breaks ground on 349 MWp Limondale solar farm

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Germany’s innogy SE has confirmed it has taken the final investment decision for the Limondale solar farm in New South Wales (NSW). At 349 MWp, Limondale is expected to be Australia’s largest solar power plant once completed.

The cleantech spinoff from one of Germany’s major utilities, RWE,  says once preparation works are complete, construction will commence in October. Commissioning of the plant will take place progressively, with full commercial operation expected in mid-2020.

“It makes me proud that we can now start with the construction of our first utility-scale PV plant in Australia – one of the continents with the highest solar irradiation per square meter. To expand renewable energies it is of vital importance that beside the excellent yield the country is supportive for increasing the share of renewable energies,“ said Hans Bünting, COO Renewables of innogy SE.

Innogy subsidiary Belectric  will be handling the EPC and O&M duties on the project. It announced in July it was well-prepared to start the construction works.

Earlier this year, the 347 MWp Limondale Solar Farm, Balranald, in Far West NSW, and the 115 MWp Hillston Sun Farm, Hillston, Central West NSW, were acquired by its parent company innogy SE, for an estimated €400 million (AU$650 million).

After the two projects were bought from developer Overland Sun Farming, innogy informed pv magazine Australia that neither Limondale nor Hilston had PPAs, and that it intended to sell the plants’ output on the wholesale market – meaning they were to become the country’s largest merchant projects by a considerable margin.

The projects and two of the ten projects approved by the NSW government in 2017, which was double the number of projects that got a green light compared to 2016. The 10 projects will have a cumulative capacity of nearly 1.2 GW once completed.

Innogy says it will review all options regarding the future ownership and financing structure of the two NSW projects in order to maximize value for the company and shareholders.

As a result of innogy’s expansion into the Australian market, it has established the subsidiary innogy Renewables Australia. The Melbourne-based team is exploring further renewable opportunities including further solar, battery storage and wind (onshore and offshore) locally.

“Electricity prices in Australia have risen strongly over the past decade and are among the highest in the world. An expansion of renewable energies can contribute towards reducing the energy costs for customers. Especially wind and solar are cost-effective alternatives in a country with excellent natural renewable resources,” said Thorsten Blanke, CEO of innogy Renewables Australia Pty Ltd.