New investors in local solar farm projects

Construction of Ramahyuck’s Longford solar farm is on track to begin mid-next year. Stock image

THERE has been a major step forward for two local solar farm projects, with major investors coming on board to deliver projects in Perry Bridge and Fulham.
Solis Gippsland Projects Pty Ltd, a joint venture between Solis Renewable Energy Pty Ltd, Marathon Electrical Pty Ltd and WK and MA Ferguson Pty Ltd, has announced Octopus Australia and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation have purchased the rights to develop the proposed Perry Bridge and Fulham solar farms.
Solis Gippsland Projects spokesperson Brett Singh described the latest developments as “a significant step in the transition of Gippsland away from coal-based energy to green power”.
“The acquisition of these projects by Octopus and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is an acknowledgement of the opportunities for a green future for our region,” he said.
Octopus Australia says the development of the renewable energy assets “will help the Gippsland region power its transition into a green superpower”.
Octopus Australia, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Solis RE will work closely together to bring the projects to financial close.
When constructed, Octopus says the Perry Bridge and Fulham solar projects will be a boost to the local economy, which is still recovering from recent bushfires, drought and the decline of local industries including timber and  coal-based generation.
It says the projects offer “an exciting new pathway” for the Gippsland  community to benefit from the clean energy economy.
The projects are also expected to showcase the ability of sheep grazing and solar farming to coexist, providing a diversified revenue stream to local landholders.
The Perry Bridge solar farm achieved planning approval from the state  Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on April 15, while the Fulham solar farm planning process is currently underway.
The Perry Bridge project is a proposed solar farm of 44 megawatts (proponents say enough to power about 13,000 homes) with battery storage of 40 to 50 megawatt hours.
It will be on 232 acres of low agricultural value farmland adjacent to the north-western corner of the Stratford-Bengworden Rd and Bengworden Rd junction, Perry Bridge.
The Fulham project is a proposed solar farm of 80 megawatts with battery storage of up to 80 megawatt hours, to be located on 400 acres of farmland adjacent to the north-western corner of the Hopkins Rd and McLarens Rd intersection, Fulham.
Proponents say the development, construction and operation of the two solar farms are expected to create more than 250 direct jobs during construction.
More employment is expected to be generated for local businesses which will soon be able to register their interest to fill a wide range of services needed to support the developments.
Octopus Australia managing director Sam Reynolds said Gippsland had its roots in the electricity industry, and these projects would help the region continue that journey.
“As the first renewable energy projects to be built at scale in the region, the Perry Bridge and Fulham solar farms symbolise how the region can be transformed into a green energy powerhouse for the 21st century,” he said.
“Through its investments, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped Australia’s renewable energy sector achieve rapid growth in recent years, delivering substantial amounts of clean energy across Australia.
“This experience will be critical as we develop these renewable energy assets for Gippsland.”
Octopus Australia’s head of investment and development Dennis Freedman said the company was grateful for the support from the local community, including land owners, council, community groups and the business sector.
“They have a vision for their region and we are excited to work alongside them to turn it into reality,” he said.
With the early retirement of the Yallourn coal fired power station being recently announced, the nearby Perry Bridge and Fulham developments form part of the suite of new energy generation that will be needed to replace this asset.
Clean Energy Finance Corporation executive director Monique Miller said investment in new, clean generation, storage, transmission and infrastructure was “critical” to support the security and reliability of Australia’s energy grid.
“We are delighted to be further extending our investments in Victoria’s renewable energy sector with these exciting developments in the Gippsland region,” she said.
Octopus Australia is a subsidiary of Octopus Group, one of the world’s largest investors in clean energy, with more than $6 billion invested across more than 250 projects.
Octopus entered Australia in 2018 and is the owner of the Darlington Point Solar Farm, currently the largest solar farm generating into the National Electricity Market, and is developing multiple other renewable energy projects across Australia.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is a Commonwealth body responsible for investing $10 billion in clean energy projects on behalf of the federal government.