First Utility-scale Solar Project in Australia Soon to Rise

August 31, 2011 / William Thomson, Green Homes Expert

First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR), Verve Energy and GE (NYSE: GE) unit GE Energy Financial Services will be funding Australia’s first utility-scale 10-megawatt solar project, which will offset the energy requirements of the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant using PV modules.

First Utility-scale Solar Project in Australia Soon to Rise

Western Australian state-owned power utility Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services will each own 50 percent of the Greenough River Solar Farm, with the WA Government providing A$20 million, including A$10 million from the WA Royalties for Regions program, requiring no debt to fund the project.

The WA Water Corporation, which is building the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant, has committed to purchase 100 percent of the solar farm’s output. Elsewhere in California, project developer SunPeak Solar, LLC, has selected Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. to mount the 23MW (AC) solar power plant in the area, which will generate 28.7MW (DC) of solar panels to residents there.

First Solar manufactures solar modules with semiconductor technology and provides photovoltaic (PV) system solutions. Verve Energy, on the other hand, owns and operates an extensive and diverse portfolio of power stations and renewable energy systems with a total capacity of 2967 MW, generating electricity in Western Australia.

First Solar will supply the project with over 150,000 of thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules and provide engineering, procurement and construction services, in addition to operations and maintenance support once the solar project is through.

Verve Energy Strategy and Business Development Manager, Tony Narvaez said: “The solar farm is important for Verve Energy, for Western Australia and for the local renewable energy sector. It enhances Verve Energy’s reputation as a renewable energy innovator.”

The solar farm will be the first utility-scale solar project in Australia, “10 times larger than any other operating solar project in the country.”

The solar farm is expected to be fully operational mid next year, taking advantage of the area’s vast dry, flat and sunny conditions.

“This announcement demonstrates the significant potential for renewable energy generation – especially utility-scale solar in WA and throughout Australia,” said Jim Brown, who will become President of Utility Systems Business Group for First Solar, which will come into force September 1.

For GE Energy Financial Services, the project represents its first renewable energy investment in Australia, adding to its global portfolio of more than US$400 million of solar power equity and debt investments in 42 projects.

Providing clean, affordable and sustainable energy to partially power the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant, near the town of Binningup, the solar project is expected to create more than 50 construction jobs.

The project, which will produce energy when it is most needed – during the day, will displace 25,000 tonnes per year of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of taking 5,000 cars off the road.

Western Australia requires new desalination plants to use power generated from renewable sources. The state’s primary supplier of water, wastewater and drainage services, the Water Corporation, will purchase the power generated by the solar farm for the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant under a 15-year contract.

The plant will produce about 50 gigalitres of potable water per year.

The solar project will boost Western Australia’s share of the Federal Government’s renewable energy target of 20 percent by 2020.

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