Edify Energy and Wirsol have successfully completed Australia's single solar project financing to build and operate three new solar farms: the Whitsunday and Hamilton Solar Farms in Queensland, and the Gannawarra Solar Farm in Victoria. When complete in Q1 2018, the Queensland and Victorian markets will benefit from an additional 198MW of renewable capacity, including the first large-scale solar farm in Victoria.
Edify Energy CEO John Cole is confident that investment in large-scale renewable energy will become more common place. "Transactions such as this demonstrate that the combination of project development and structuring expertise, and investment confidence is once again present in the Australian renewable sector. We acquired the sites from Solar Choice in 2015 who have remained as a development partner. Since then we have leveraged our international experience to de-risk the projects. We have brought in tier one counterparties to create an overall package that has proven attractive to financiers and enabled the projects to become a reality. We are truly excited about replicating this approach with our partners across the rest of our development pipeline and making an impact in the Australian renewable energy market."
Mark Hogan, MD of Wirsol Energy Limited said "We are thrilled to announce the successful acquisition and refinancing of this portfolio as it marks our first move into the Australian renewable sector. Our success in Australia has been driven by the significant experience accrued in the European market and deploying 1GW of solar to date. We believe this transaction demonstrates the importance of bringing together industry knowledge and local expertise to successfully develop, construct and finance large-scale renewable projects. This transaction firmly positions Wirsol as one of Australia's leading renewable investors. We will continue building on this success by working alongside our trusted partners to fulfil our goals of deploying at least a further 500MW of solar in Australia by 2020."
This landmark financing brings together a syndicate of domestic and international lenders – CEFC, CBA and NORD/LB – providing a $230 million long-term debt facility across the portfolio of contracted and merchant projects, with each lender making an equal one-third commitment. Elgar Middleton were financial advisers to the transaction. Ashurst, Norton Rose Fulbright and Allens provided legal advice.
The Whitsunday Solar Farm is supported by the Queensland Government by way of a 20-year PPA under its Solar 150 Program and ARENA through the award of a grant of up to $9.5 million. The Gannawarra Solar Farm will benefit from a long-term PPA with EnergyAustralia. The Hamilton Solar Farm is co-located with the Whitsunday Solar Farm and has been financed on a merchant basis, which includes a short-term contract with ERM Power.
Construction on all three projects will commence shortly, with the townships of Collinsville, QLD and Kerang, VIC exhibiting strong community support to date and expecting to benefit from a peak of 200 and 100 jobs across the two sites respectively. The construction of the Whitsunday and Hamilton Solar Farms will benefit from the international experience of Bouygues Construction Australia. The Gannawarra Solar Farm will be constructed by Australian firm RCR Tomlinson. OST Energy represented Edify Energy and Wirsol as technical advisers for the three projects.
In addition to continuing development of other projects in its portfolio, Edify Energy will undertake the construction management and long-term asset management roles for the Whitsunday, Hamilton and Gannawarra Solar Farms.