Australia’s largest solar farm goes ahead after Neoen completes financing


French renewable independent power producer (IPP) Neoen has reached financial close on the 460 MW Western Downs Green Power Hub, another giant step towards it becoming Australia’s largest solar farm. The announcement comes just five months after Neoen secured a contract to sell the majority of the future plant’s energy to Queensland Government-owned renewable energy generator CleanCo.  CleanCo has agreed to purchase the power output from 352 MWp of the project’s 460 MWp capacity. 

Since selecting Nextracker’s optimised bifacial tracking system for the project earlier this month, there is now very little standing in the way of EPC Sterling and Wilson getting down to business in Q4 2020 – as the parties look to complete construction in little over a year.

With the financing now in place, Neoen will retain a 100% equity stake in the project, a business model of long-term ownership that Neoen CEO and Chairman Xavier Barbaro says is a confidence boost to the company’s lenders in these unprecedented times. 

The project will cost an estimated $600 million, of which debt will be provided by seven international lenders including the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Neoen’s Managing Director of Australia, Louis de Sambucy, said the company was delighted to reach this important financial milestone. “It represents a major achievement in a challenging environment …We are extremely proud to be partnering with CleanCo and PowerLink and we’re looking forward to playing our part in helping Queensland reach its ambitious target of 50% renewable energy by 2030.” 

Indeed, when the solar farm begins generating electricity in 2022 it will provide enough power for 235,000 homes, or every home on the Sunshine Coast. 

CleanCo Queensland’s CEO Maia Schweizer said that the renewable generator is thrilled to be involved with the Western Downs Green Power Hub, “which will help drive electricity affordability and create regional growth and jobs for Queenslanders.” The project is expected to create more than 400 construction jobs in Queensland’s South West. 

Neoen’s ability to execute large projects is well established, be it under the company’s other PPA with CleanCo for the 110 MW Kaban Green Power Hub in Far North Queensland, or the recent completion of its 50% expansion of the Hornsdale Power Reserve. Given this current form, the progression of the as yet only notified Goyder South Hybrid Renewable Energy Facility (1200 MW of wind, 600 MW of solar, and 900 MW battery storage), may progress faster than some expect. 

In his statement, Barbaro went on to say that Neoen is excited to extend its Australian footprint. “At 460 MWp it will be the largest solar farm in our global portfolio and will take our total operating capacity in Australia to over 1.5 GW.”

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