Eni enters Aussie renewables market with acquisition of NT largest solar farm

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Through subsidiary, Eni Australia, the Italian oil major has completed the acquisition of the 33.7 MWp Katherine Solar Farm from a joint venture set up by Australia’s Epuron and the UK-based Island Green Power.

The $40 million project was greenlit in October  as the largest renewable energy generator in the state, marking a big step towards the NT Labor government election commitment to 50% renewables by 2030.

Eni has confirmed the Katherine Solar Farm will be collocated with a 5.7 MVA/2.9MWh battery storage system and will feature an innovative cloud coverage predicting technology. The company says this will make it possible to forecast and compensate for possible variations in solar irradiation.

The solar farm has secured a long-term offtake deal with state-owned utility Jacana Energy, and is forecast to increase renewable energy use in the Territory by 3-4%, putting downward pressure on electricity prices.

Epuron owns and operates solar power stations in the NT at Alice Springs, Yulara, Kalkarindji, Ti Tree and Lake Nash / Alpurrurulam, making up a 7 MW solar portfolio refinanced with a $22.2 million senior debt facility provided by private sector infrastructure fund manager Infradebt. The Katherine Solar Farm is the developer’s first project in the Darwin – Katherine electricity system.

According to Eni, the Australian developer will have an active role in managing the PV farm once operational. Construction is expected to start in the next few weeks, with an expected commercial operation date in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The move marks Eni’s foray into the Australian renewables market, expanding on its existing assets in the oil and gas sector.

The fossil fuel company has been present in Australia through its subsidiary Eni Australia Ltd since 2000. It is the operator and 100% owner of the Blacktip Gas Project and has a non-operated interest in the Bayu-Undan gas and condensate field and in the associated Darwin LNG plant.

Eni only recently entered the renewable energy business. After setting up its new Energy Solutions department in 2015, the company announced in September of 2017 that it will cooperate with Algeria’s Sonatrach to build a 10 MW PV plant in the country.

The Italian concern has built a 20 MW solar plant in Ghana  and is planning to install 220 MW of solar at its Italian sites between 2018-2021.

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