A former coal mining hub is the Sunshine State’s solar hot spot with two new large-scale solar farms about to begin construction near Collinsville in north Queensland.

Developer Edify Energy’s latest large-scale solar projects are the 150MW Daydream Solar Farm and the 50MW Hayman Solar Farm.

They are located near its 57.5MW Whitsunday Solar Farm and the 57.5MW Hamilton Solar Farm, which are already under construction.

Another 42MW solar farm is being developed by RATCH-Australia Corporation, at the site of the disused Collinsville power station.

All five projects have secured finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which has committed more than $900 million to solar and $2.7 billion to clean energy projects and programs.

The CEFC is lending around $90 million to the latest Edify Energy projects, as part of a syndicated debt facility involving Commonwealth Bank and French investment bank Natixis.

BlackRock Real Assets has bought a 90% interest in the two plants through a private fund that focuses on investing in wind and solar assets globally. Edify will retain 10% of the equity interest and provide the projects with construction and long-term asset management services.

Origin has signed a 12-year power purchase agreement for 100% of the output from the Daydream solar farm, which is expected to be operational by mid-2018.

Energy generated by the Hayman solar farm will be sold into the grid on a merchant basis.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the continued growth in large-scale solar projects in areas with strong sunshine such as north Queensland made enormous sense as part of the Australian economy’s transition to net zero emissions.

“These developments are helping drive Australia’s clean energy transformation, by taking advantage of ideal solar energy generation conditions and building experience and expertise in the sector,” Learmonth said.

The projects have the ability to integrate future storage solutions, he said.

CEFC solar lead Gloria Chan said the transaction marks a turning point for large-scale solar financing in Australia as the lenders were comfortable with providing long-term finance that extended past the period covered by the contracted offtake agreement.

“This demonstrates a growing understanding of the investment opportunity available through large-scale solar, and a willingness to provide patient capital to develop this important renewable energy resource,” Chan said. “It further demonstrates that it is now possible to develop commercially viable large-scale solar projects without grant funding.”

RCR Tomlinson is constructing the solar farms, which are expected to create around 300 jobs during construction. The projects consist of about two million solar panels.

The two solar farms are expected to abate more than 476,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually and generate enough power for about 73,000 homes.

BlackRock Renewable Power portfolio manager Charlie Reid said: “The acquisition adds further solar resource and country diversification to our global platform and our existing renewable power portfolio.”

BlackRock has invested in more than 90 solar projects globally over the last few years, representing 1,056MW of capacity and generating enough renewable energy to power more than 340,000 homes a year.

Construction on both projects will commence in September and commissioning is expected about the middle of next year.

Key project attributes:

Daydream Solar Farm

  • 430 hectares
  • 150MW
  • to power 55,000 homes
  • 1,500,000 panels

Hayman Solar Farm

  • 160 hectares
  • 50MW
  • to power 18,000 homes
  • 500,000 panels