Infrastructure investor John Laing has, as of late, shown big appetite in investing in Australian large scale solar. The company has confirmed it has purchased the 174.9MWp Finley Solar Farm in New South Wales and secured debt financing for its second big solar project in the country.
John Laing, which now owns 100% of the project, and local developer Esco Pacific, expect the Finley Solar Farm to reach commercial operations in late 2019.
Esco Pacific has signed a seven year power purchase agreement for 66% of the output including LGCs of the Finley Solar Farm with Australia’s steel giant BlueScope Steel in July. At the time, the offtake agreement was hailed as Australia’s largest corporate PPA.
John Laing announced the Finley financial close only a month after the Group’s close of another solar investment in the region, the 255 MWp Sunraysia Solar Farm, also in New South Wales. It invested $108.6 million in the project, taking a 90.1% stake.
The company said it made the decision on its first investment in the solar sector in Australia after carefully evaluating a number of solar opportunities in the market over the last two years.
“With two solar investments secured in Australia in as many months, we are underlining our commitment to the region and to socially responsible projects that support in-country ambitions,“ said Justin Bailey, John Laing, Regional Managing Director – Asia Pacific.
The two Australian solar projects add to the two wind farm projects already in John Laing’s APAC renewable energy portfolio – the 31MW Kiata Wind Farm in Victoria and the 309MW Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia – representing over 750 MW of generating capacity.
The financing deal is also an important milestone for Esco Pacific, which will provide asset management services during construction and operations of the Finley Solar Farm,
“Achieving financial close on our Finley Solar Farm is a fantastic outcome for ESCO Pacific, bringing our developed capacity to nearly 500 MWp of solar in Australia. We are delighted to be working with our equity partner on this project, John Laing, and further extending our existing relationships with Westpac and ANZ,” said Steven Rademaker, Chief Executive Officer of ESCO Pacific.
According to Herbert Smith Freehills, which has advised Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited and Westpac Banking Corporation on the Finley Solar Farm financing, the EPC duties on the project will be handled by a joint venture between Signal Energy Australia and Canadian Solar Construction (Australia).
The development indicates that there continues to be a substantial appetite for renewable energy investments in Australia from international investors. Earlier this week, EY’s renewable energy country attractiveness index (RECAI) saw Australia drop one position, as a result of “political upheaval” in the energy sector.