Sunny days for Mid West renewables

State Government-owned Synergy has teamed with two giant investment funds to quadruple the capacity of the Greenough River solar farm, about 50km inland from Geraldton.

The $60 million solar panel expansion, to be built by RCR Tomlinson, will be the first investment for Synergy’s new joint venture with Dutch infrastructure fund DIF and Australian super fund Cbus.

Known as Bright Energy Investments, the venture will also refurbish the Albany Grasmere wind farm while continuing preparatory work on the huge Warradarge wind farm project in the Mid West.

Energy Minister Ben Wyatt says the three projects demonstrate the McGowan Government’s commitment to ensuring there is a sustainable plan for the State’s transition to a cleaner energy mix.

“The Mid West is emerging as the epicentre for renewable energy projects in this State, comprising a land area amounting to one-fifth of the size of WA,” he says.

“The region also contains a diverse natural environment, which can be utilised to generate economic opportunities.”

Perth-based RCR expects to start work on Greenough River’s expansion immediately.

The contract includes engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning of the solar farm, which will increase its capacity to 40MW by the second quarter of next year.

Managing Director Paul Dalgleish says RCR is pleased to win the job, as it enables the fast-growing contractor to diversify its traditional offerings in WA while expanding its “ever-increasing footprint of solar projects across Australia”.

“We are seeing increased activity in the renewable energy market in WA and are well placed to service this from our position as a market leader.”

Based on current estimates, Greenough River and the proposed development of Warradarge prior to 2020 will create about 200 construction jobs in the Mid West.

Wyatt says the Labor Government is delivering on its plan to ensure that the state meets its 2020 renewable energy commitments in such a way that has “minimal impact on taxpayers and contributes to State budget repair”.

Cbus and DIF will collectively hold 80.1 per cent of Bright Energy and Synergy the remainder.

Cbus Head of Infrastructure Diana Callebaut says the joint venture arrangement is a unique opportunity to obtain a portfolio of renewable energy assets with long-term contracts while gaining access to a pipeline of greenfield renewable assets.

“Bright Energy Investments holds development rights for the Warradarge Wind Farm and will now commence the development process for the project,” she says.

Private investment is also flowing into the Mid West, with APA’s $315m Badgingarra wind farm, inland from Cervantes, approaching peak construction levels of about 150 workers ahead of project commissioning early next year.

And Alinta is edging closer to approval for its $600 million Yandin proposal at Dandaragan, which would become the state’s largest wind power generator at 300MW.

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