Port Augusta 320 MW wind-solar project secures finance

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Construction on the 320 MW Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park (PAREP) is expected to start this year after Iberdrola gave the green light for what will be its first investment in Australia. The Spanish energy giant has committed to invest $500 million to get construction under way on the landmark project following a considerable delay.

Originally planned to break ground in 2017, the PAREP made headlines when project developer DP Energy, an Irish-headquartered renewable energy firm, announced its partners. Downer was chosen to build the 150 MW solar energy component of the Port Augusta hybrid plant, with wind giants Vestas contracted to develop 225 MW of wind power. Since then, the project was stalled by the arrangements for transmission connections.

In its latest form, the hybrid project will comprise 110 MW of solar and 210 of wind. Just like for Iberdola, the PAREP will be DP Energy’s first Australian project. Both companies say this is only the beginning with the Spanish energy giant working on a 650 MW Australian pipeline and the Irish developer looking at further projects Down Under.

“We have a strong pipeline of activity and we look forward to progressing these projects by utilising Australia’s world-class wind and solar assets, as we’ve done in Port Augusta,” DP Energy CEO Simon De Pietro.

Presently, according to the company website, DP Energy’s Australian pipeline includes two more projects: the Desailly Renewable Energy Park in Queensland comprising 250 MW of solar and 300 MW of wind and the PAREP Stage 2 featuring, as announced earlier, a further 300 MW of solar capacity and an expected 400 MW of battery storage capacity.

The best of both worlds

The Port Augusta project is said to be one of the new breed of renewable projects designed to provide predictable power more uniformly across the day. It will capitalize on the very strong South Australian solar resource as well as the location at the head of the Spencer Gulf where the thermal winds are generated by the increasing temperature differences between land and sea throughout the day.

“When combined with the mid-day solar generation this results in a generation output better matched to the SA electricity demand profile when compared to a weather system driven wind or solar only project,” DP Energy said in a press release.

The news of the PAREP financial close was welcomed by the South Australian government, which aims to reach “net 100% renewables” by around 2030. SA Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, said Iberdrola’s investment was an endorsement of Port Augusta’s renewable energy credentials. Presently, the region is home to the 220 MW Bungala Solar Farm and the 212 MW Lincoln Gap Wind Farm, and set to host a number of other significant projects such as the 100MW/100MWh Playford utility battery and the 50 MW/200 MWh Pangea vanadium flow battery.

“Iberdrola is a world leader in wind energy and will use DP Energy’s Port Augusta solar and wind farm project to make its debut in the Australian market, creating up to 200 regional construction jobs and upon completion, providing around 320 megawatts of power from South Australia,” Minister van Holst Pellekaan said.

DP Energy Australia Director and Country Manager Catherine Way said they were encouraged by the strong support for the project from the Port Augusta community and the South Australian Government. “Since the closure of the coal fired power station at Port Augusta the city has become a hub for innovative renewable energy projects due to the areas unique natural strengths, and PAREP is set to be an important part of that future energy mix and the landscape of the region,” Way said.

Once complete, the Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park is projected to produce approximately 900 GWh per annum, enough to power around 180,000 households each year, with an emissions saving of approximately 400,000 metric tonnes of CO2 annually.