Finley solar farm sign contract with BlueScope Steel

BlueScope Steel have signed the largest ever solar power purchasing deal by an industrial energy user in Australia today. They’ll buy around 200 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year – allowing ESCO to commence stage 1 of its 133MW Finley solar farm.

Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel

The seven-year contract signed between the Finley Solar Farm (which will be manufactured by ESCO Pacific in the NSW Riverina area) and BlueScope Steel will represent 20% of BlueScope’s energy requirements. 

Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel
Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel (source: BlueScope.com)

John Nowlan, the head of Australian steel at BlueScope, said the contract will be a step in the right direction while they continue to support the National Energy Guarantee and rely less and less on non-renewable energy:

“(The contract) will help keep downward pressure on our energy costs, and will support the gradual transition to renewable energy,” Mr Nowlan told the Australian Financial Review.

“BlueScope supports Australia’s 2030 emissions target, including the government’s target to reduce electricity sector emissions by 26% on 2005 levels by 2030. By investing in solar energy, we are helping accelerate the decarbonisation of the electricity grid by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by around 300,000 tonnes of CO2e each year. This is comparable to taking 90,000 cars off the road and is enough to power 60,000 homes.” he continued.

This is another great step in the right direction for commercial solar – where we have seen industrial energy users such as Telstra, data centre operator Equinix and Mars Australia sign deals directly with renewable developers. These are known as solar PPAs (Purchase Power Agreements) and can save 20-50% on bills, depending on various factors such as usage and location.

“For any serious corporate off-taker or energy user a solar PPA is a good part of the energy mix,” said ESCO Pacific managing director Steve Rademaker.

“It’s not the only solution but it goes a long way to helping manage costs.”

This is more good news for solar power in resources – it’ll be great to watch companies like BlueScope move from 0%, to 20%, and hopefully eventually to 100% renewable energy. 

Construction on the Finley Solar Farm is set to commence around the end of September, with production scheduled for mid-2019.

If you’d like to read the press release from BlueScope please click here

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Ross River Solar Farm (Kelso, Townsville)

The $202 million, 148MW Ross River Solar Farm in Kelso, near Townsville in North Queensland is currently under construction. It’s the largest operating single stage solar farm in Australia and will comprise of 413,000 solar panels on single axis tracking systems.

Ross River solar farm

Ross River Solar Farm
Ross River solar farm (source: rossriversolarfarm.com.au)

The solar farm reached a financial close last May under Palisade Investment Partners and ESCO Pacific. Built on a disused mango farm over 202 hectares in a rural residential area near Ross Dam, it received DA (Development Approval) from the Townsville City Council in June 2016 (you can see the Town Planning Report they submitted by clicking here). They’ve signed a 13-year power purchase agreement with EnergyAustralia – with a new buried cable 132kV transmission line to connect the project to the Ross River Bulk Supply Substation being run to help facilitate the PPA. 

The project is funded via equity from the Palisade Renewable Energy Fund and three of Palisade’s clients, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), VicSuper and HESTA.

Palisade Managing Director and CEO, Roger Lloyd, said: “We are excited about this investment which further diversifies Palisade’s renewables portfolio. Palisade’s hands-on approach to taking greenfield projects through the development phase to financial close allows us to shape our investments in a way that minimises risk and maximises returns.”

According to an article from the Toowomba Chronicle, up to 250 North Queensland solar jobs are being created through this project. Downer Utilities, part of the listed Downer Group, is the lead construction contractor and you can click here to see their current solar job listings if you’re interested in joining the project.

The Ross River solar farm is set for completion later this year and is expected to operate for up to 40 years. We’ll keep you updated with any interesting developments we hear about it. 

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