Obton enters Australian PV marketplace through JV partnership

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In the latest sign of growing appetite of international investors, Danish renewables investment firm Obton has entered the Australian solar marketplace through a joint venture partnership with a local developer.

The partner is Torus Group Electrical Pty Ltd, a related entity of Lotus Energy, which stuck a deal with Australian storage provider Redflow last November to install 160 kWh of storage, or 16 zinc-bromine flow battery units, alongside 100 kW of solar panels, at each of two children’s centers in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Torus is said to have contacted Obton around six months ago with the idea for the partnership.

“They had a number of concrete ideas for more projects but were lacking someone with a brand in the industry that could put together the required capital. At the same time, Obton were keen to enter the Australian market, which was completely new to us,” explains Nicky Larsen, Senior Business Developer at Obton.

The newly established JV says it already has three solar projects underway, and plans to buy, develop and build more across the country.

“There are several projects in the pipeline, primarily located in southern Australia, which range in size from rooftop portfolios to large ground-mounted utility-scale projects. The first project is a 12 MWp project in New South Wales,” Anders Marcus, Obton CEO, tells pv magazine Australia.

Obton has gained experience with more than 500 projects in countries like France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, through which it learned about the importance of having a local partner.

In the Netherlands, Obton has a similar JV arrangement with local developer GreenIPP, which has been running for a couple of years and the first projects have already been commissioned. Last year, the investor entered the U.K. market with the acquisition of 9 MW of solar projects.

“Obton’s experience in structuring projects of very different types of projects, combined with our expertise in structuring long-term debt financing for such, is what we see as our main contributions to the [Australian] partnership,” said Marcus.

Noting that a variety of off-take solutions and set-ups make the Australian marketplace particularly attractive, Marcus says Obton’s interest in Australia’s PV sector is also driven by a positive market outlook and high energy demand.

The company’s target for 2019 is to see its first project enter the construction phase. In the long run, the Danish investor is optimistic and unperturbed by the political upheaval in the energy sector.

“Our faith in the future power needs of Australia is bigger than our concern about governments and policies that come and go,” Marcus said.

Overall, Obton represents retail investors and manages a rapid growing PV portfolio of more than 500 MW with an enterprise value of €1 billion.

The company underlines it is constantly on the lookout for developers with projects lacking a strong financing partner. It also believes joint ventures are an important model for future projects in the renewable energy arena.

“We take all enquiries seriously, even those from small-scale players – as long as they have proven experience. However, the investment volume of the project or of a portfolio should preferably exceed 20-25 million euros in order to match the resources necessary for set-up,” says Larsen.