Source: Manila Bulletin

27 August 2020 – Ayala-owned firm AC Energy Inc. and its partner UPC Renewables had engaged Spanish firm Elecnor S.A. to be the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor of their 720-megawatt (ac) New England solar farm project, which is touted to be Australia’s biggest hybrid solar-battery energy installation.

In a statement to the media, AC Energy indicated that Elecnor Australia will deliver on the first stage of the installation for 400MW capacity, and that shall include the substation works. On-site construction is targeted to start next year and project completion is in two (2) years.

The EPC contractor, according to the Ayala firm, “will be responsible for the detailed design, engineering and procurement of New England solar farm project, as well as ongoing operation and maintenance services in the first two years of operations.”

The corporate vehicle pursuing the solar farm development in Australia is UPC\AC Renewables Australia, the joint venture firm of AC Energy, the energy investment arm of the Ayala group; and its Hongkong-headquartered partner UPC Renewables.

As designed, the New England solar venture shall be in two stages – with the second phase yielding the added capacity of 320MW.

AC Energy said the first 400MW phase of the project development and the 33/330-kilovolt substation will be installed by Elecnor on the northern section of the facility’s site.

Project blueprint specifies that the first stage will be an “associated 400MWh battery project, a 50 MW/1-hour battery energy storage system capable of dispatching energy to the grid at times of high energy demand.”

The facility sets deployment of single axis tracking technology that “will allow solar panels to follow the path of the sun, while also allowing adequate space for sheep to continue grazing on the land in between and underneath the panels.”

Brian Caffyn, executive chairman of UPC Renewables, pointed out the New England project “will be the biggest solar farm under construction in Australia, and the first of many projects that we expect to move forward with over the coming years,” with him adding that “Australia is a key market for UPC Renewables and our partner AC Energy.”

The Ayala energy firm, in particular, is eyeing 5,000MW of attributable capacity by year 2025 and its project plans stride along split developments between the Philippines and its targeted offshore markets.

AC Energy International COO Patrice Clausse noted “building the New England solar farm is a remarkable achievement, one which puts UPC\AC Renewables and Australia at the forefront of renewable energy development in the Asia Pacific region.”

At the peak of the New England facility’s construction, this is expected to create 700 jobs; and it will have “around 15 ongoing jobs over the life of the solar farm.”

On the appointment of the EPC contractor, UPC\AC Renewables CEO Anton Rohner said “this is a major milestone for the project,” with him emphasizing that aside from the jobs created in the development phase, this is also a key point of transition in Australia’s energy system.

“Not only are we providing clean energy to the grid, with the support of the NSW (New South Wales) government, we are providing dispatchable energy in the form of a 50 MWh battery,” he stressed.

And while the solar facility advances to construction phase, Rohner indicated they are also keeping an eye on their host community, primarily Uralla and the other stakeholders – and this is an initiative they have been pursuing in the past three years already.

He noted “an upgrade to the local roads connecting to the solar farm already progressed, as well as completion of environmental management plans.”

The New England solar farm venture was granted ‘development consent’ by the NSW Independent Planning Commission in March this year; then the grid connection agreement with TransGrid was firmed up in June.

Upon reaching commercial operations, the solar power facility is expected to generate 1,800,000 megawatt-hours of electricity that would be enough to power more than 250,000 typical homes in the NSW territory.

Additionally, project-sponsor firm UPC\AC Renewables launched this month its first round of community grant amounting to $100,000; and there will be an ongoing funding tied to the project’s completion.