SmartestEnergy Australia, a subsidiary of Japanese business conglomerate Marubeni, has entered into a “long-term agreement” with renewables business Octopus Australia to buy a quarter of the generation from its 333 MW (DC) Darlington Point Solar Farm in the mid-south of NSW.
The exact duration of the power purchasing agreement (PPA) was not revealed, but the agreement will see retailer SmartestEnergy Australia offer the renewable power to commercial and industrial companies, it said.
Darlington Point Solar Farm was commissioned in 2020 and is the largest solar farm in Australia with nearly 1 million solar panels, supplying enough energy to power 110,000 households annually. It was previously held by Edify Energy and Octopus Australia jointly, but was acquired fully by the latter in. 2022.
Octopus Australia has been pushing the envelope on renewables since entering the market from its base in the United Kingdom, where its owner Octopus Group operates. Speaking to pv magazine Australia, Managing Director Sam Reynolds said the company realised quite quickly it would have to shift its approach in Australia, where he says both the renewables markets and projects were “more difficult.”
Its approach was to develop technical expertise across key areas including grid, engineering and community engagement, and bring these teams together with its fund management arm. “Different people and different worlds, so getting them under the one roof to all work and talk to each other,” Reynolds said.
Developing this cooperation between different arms of the company has been key for Octopus Australia, he added, and has given it a point of difference in a market that is screaming out for better communication between financial and engineering players.
To that end, the company last year introduced two new investment platforms for the Australian market. Its OASIS fund focuses on big institutional investors while the OREO fund is open to smaller investors. These funds are then aggregated and used to invest not in singular renewable projects but diversified portfolios.
“There’s some different things in each [fund], but pretty much it allows wholesale investors and mums and dads to invest alongside big institutional investors and get access to big projects in Australia.”
In fact, the first project jointly acquired by the OASIS and OREO funds was the the Darlington Point Solar Farm.
The company has also been paying an unusual amount of attention to questions of land stewardship – something sadly often overlooked in renewables industries. In 2022, it announced its joint venture Desert Springs Octopus with Traditional Owners in the Northern Territory.
In terms of Darlington Point Solar Farm, Octopus Australia said it has invested over $5.5 million (USD 3.87 million) to establish a biodiversity stewardship scheme safeguarding large areas of native grasslands on the site and “offsetting” any impact from the development of the solar farm. These grasslands, separate to the solar farm, are undergoing registration under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW) protecting them from further development.
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