AC Energy secures funding for Aussie solar project

Bill urges gov’t to tap into solar energy to power buildings, facilities

AC Energy and its joint venture partner UPC Renewables have secured financing from three banks for the 720-megawatt (MW) New England Solar Farm (NESF) in the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia.

In a disclosure by AC Energy’s parent firm Ayala Corporation to the Philippine Stock Exchange, it said that UPC\AC Renewables Australia — the joint venture’s corporate vehicle — said that it has reached financial close for the first 40oMW stage of the NESF.

The joint venture obtained debt financing for the initial stage of the NESF project from Australian banks Westpac and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, as well as the Bank of China. The first 400MW phase costs AUD619 million (around Php23.1 billion), with AC Energy committing US$320 million (around Php15.3 billion).

“It’s exciting to achieve financial close on a merchant basis for such a large project, which is the first of many such projects we have in Australia. UPC\AC Renewables Australia views this project fitting into the NSW Government RoadMap and look forward to being engaged in this process to help lower electricity prices in NSW,” UPC\AC Renewables CEO Anton Rohner said in a statement.

Grid connection and initial energy production is expected to commence by July 2022, while the remainder of the project is projected to be placed in service by around the end of 2023.

“The New England Solar Farm is a major milestone for AC Energy as our first project in Australia. This is the product of a fruitful partnership with UPC and our local Australian team. We look forward to helping Australia achieve and exceed its long-term decarbonization goals by continuing to develop and construct more renewable energy projects in the country,” said AC Energy International COO Patrice Clausse.

UPC\AC Renewables announced late last year that it has hired Elecnor, through local subsidiary Green Light Contractors, as its engineering, procurement, and construction contractor. Elecnor has extensive experience building solar farms and transmission assets around the world.

Once fully constructed, the NESF will produce enough energy to power approximately 250,000 NSW households annually and will supply energy to the market to help fill the gap left by the expected closure of the Liddell Power Station.

UPC\AC Renewables is also planning to install up to a 400 megawatt-hour (MWh) lithium-ion battery storage facility, with the first 50MWh supported by the NSW Emerging Energy Program, expected to become operational in mid-2022. The battery system will assist with electricity grid stability and provide firm capability to deliver energy at peak periods, lowering prices for consumers.

The said projects are part of AC Energy’s bid to build a 5,000MW renewables portfolio by 2025.