Photon Energy sells 25% stake in NSW solar project to Canadian Solar


Netherlands-based renewables developer Photon Energy said it had sold its 25% in the 189 MWp Suntop Solar Farm to Chinese PV heavyweight Canadian Solar. The acquisition is scheduled to be completed by the end of Q3 2019 for an undisclosed amount.

“This transaction marks the successful completion of our project development work on the Suntop 1 project and the successful conclusion of the first of our five projects jointly developed with Canadian Solar. We are very pleased to have reached this important milestone,” said Michael Gartner, Managing Director of Photon Energy Australia.

The $262 million Suntop Solar Farm is part of the deal between Photon Energy and Canadian Solar sealed last year, to codevelop five NSW solar farms with the accumulated capacity of 1.14 GW. Under the agreement, Canadian Solar acquired 51% in five Photon Energy projects, including the 220 MW Gunning, 160 MW Maryvale, 200 MW Mumbil/Suntop 2, and the 150 MW Gunnedah solar farms. It is important to note that the capacity of all solar projects in Photon Energy’s pipeline has been altered since originally announced. 

In case of Suntop, the capacity has come down from 286 MW in January 2018, to 170 MW in Photon’s latest release, which should be considered as final. The project located 10 kilometers west of Wellington in New South Wales was granted a development approval last year.

According to the project environmental impact statement submitted to the the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, the Suntop project is estimated to consist of up to 550,000 PV panels installed on a single axis tracking system and feature 118 inverter stations supplied by Ingeteam, as a fully containerized solution. Two access roads will be constructed, as well as a new 132 kV substation that will connect directly to the existing 132 kV transmission line traversing the site. The Suntop Solar Farm is expected to power up to 70,000 homes and create 250 jobs during construction and ten operational jobs during its 30 year life. 

Status of Photon’s Australian pipeline 

As seen in the company’s June monthly report, Photon Energy has eight large scale solar farms at different stages of development in New South Wales, with the accumulated capacity of 1,234 MWp. Aside from Suntop, these projects include:

Gunnedah (150 MWp): The project was given the go-ahead by the Independent Planning Committee in March under some added conditions.

Gunning (220 MWp): Site assessments are progressing and the developer is finalising the site layouts to complete the Environmental Impact statement (EIS). According to Photon, the transition from fixed to single axis tracking has resulted in a reduction of the installed capacity from 316 MWp to 220 MWp.

Maryvale (160 MWp): The GPS and grid connection options are currently under review and in discussions with Essential Energy. The EIS was submitted in November 2018 to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and public exhibition ended in December. In the meantime, Photon has responded to submissions to the project and are awaiting determination by Q3 2019.

Mumbil/Suntop 2 (200 MWp): The findings of the feasibility study of the Mumbil Solar Farm project revealed significant issues related to aspects such as soil erosion, aboriginal heritage protection, and challenges of waterways. Following a thorough feasibility process, Canadian Solar and Photon Energy have determined that the proposed Mumbil Solar Farm will not proceed. However, the joint venture has lodged a preliminary environmental assessment to significantly expand the size of the Suntop Solar Farm project (“Suntop 2”) by a further 200 MWp. Both development efforts and budget for the Mumbil project were relocated to the Suntop 2 project. The project partners are completing community consultation and the project will be ready for submission in Q3 2019.

Leeton (14 MWp): In response to tightening grid connection standards which require additional grid connection studies, a revised system size of 2 times 5 MW (7 MWp) has been re-designed for single axis tracking and is now proposed. The development application approval has been amended for the change in technology and grid connection process with Essential Energy is now in the final stages.

Carrick (144 MWp): The EIS and GPS preparation process is underway and due to be ready for submission by Q3 2019.

Brewongle (146 MWp): The EIS and GPS preparation process is underway and due to be ready for submission in Q3 2019.

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