The company will build two plants in New South Wales, a 102 MW PV farm in Nyngan and a 53MW solar project in Broken Hill. First Solar will supply engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for the two projects under contracts with AGL Energy Limited. The company also agreed to provide maintenance for five years after the projects are completed.
“The Nyngan and Broken Hill solar projects will be Australia’s largest utility-scale solar projects, respectively, and demonstrate that utility-scale solar is a proven, bankable source of power generation in Australia today,” said Jack Curtis, First Solar’s vice president of Business Development for Asia Pacific. “We are thrilled to be partnering with AGL in delivering the solar projects, both of which are of major significance for regional New South Wales and the Australian energy sector.” Curtis added that the projects will help grow acceptance of utility-scale PV in Australia.
“AGL is delighted to be working with First Solar and drawing on the team’s global expertise in this industry,” said Michael Fraser, AGL’s Managing Director. “We are eager to get this nationally significant project underway and together we will provide the experience and commercial stability to help ensure the successful construction of the two solar plants.”
The projects are expected to cost AUD $450 million (US $407 million) and are supported by AUD $166.7 million from the Commonwealth Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and AUD $65 million from the New South Wales Government.
The projects will begin construction in 2014, with Nyngan beginning first next January. Beacon Hill is slated to start construction in July 2014, according to First Solar. Both projects are slated for completion by the end of 2015, with Nyngen slated for completion by mid-year that year. Both projects will create a total of roughly 450 positions during construction.
Australia, which began to reach parity with solar as early as 2011, falls into First Solar’s move to focus on markets where solar is at or below parity with energy sources. Thus far it has meant First Solar’s international presence has expanded significantly. The company has taken on projects in countries as Chile, South Africa, and Masdar in the United Arab Emirates.