The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will invest $20 million in the Ross River Solar Farm near Townsville, Queensland, accelerating the development of Australia’s biggest solar farm.

When completed in early 2018, the $225 million Ross River Solar Farm is expected to generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 65,000 homes.

The 116MW project is being developed by ESCO Pacific and infrastructure manager Palisade Investment Partners. The project has secured a 13-year power purchase agreement with EnergyAustralia, the largest single solar PPA in Australia.

The investment is also the first time the CEFC has taken an equity stake in a solar farm.

“By investing equity in the early stage of such projects, we are looking to unlock much needed capital to support an accelerated growth path. This means renewable energy projects can be built more quickly,” said CEFC investment funds lead Rory Lonergan.

“As an equity investor, we are also further demonstrating the commercial strength of clean energy projects. This is one way in which we can help create investment opportunities for Australian institutional investors such as superannuation funds, which are expressing a growing appetite for sustainable investments.”

The solar farm will cover more than 200 hectares of a disused mango plantation south-west of Townsville, with 450,000 solar panels using horizontal tracking technology.

Construction will take about 12 months and more than 150 jobs will be created.