As first reported this week in Renew Economy, Solar Choice has reached completion on the purchase of an additional 75% stake in the multi-staged 2,000MW Bulli Creek Solar Farm & Energy Storage project west of Toowoomba in southern Queensland. Having originated the project in 2013 before taking a 25% stake in the project entity when it was established in 2015, Solar Choice now fully owns the project and is seeking a new partner with whom to take the first and subsequent stages to financial close.
“Bulli Creek is where land meets grid for solar generation, battery storage and green hydrogen synergies at strategic and exceptional scale” said Solar Choice’s founder and managing director, Angus Gemmell.
“It’s rare to have such a well-developed site on Australia’s transmission network where grid capacity for large-scale renewable generation approaches 2 GigaWatt and Marginal Loss Factors don’t adversely impact revenues until approximately 1.5 GigaWatt” he said.
“The site straddles the Qld NSW Interconnector due west of the major load centres of Toowoomba and Brisbane, and only 4kms south of a major 330kV substation with a registered connection easement to the start of our 8km x 8km of cleared flat grazing country secured with planning approval. All federal environmental, cultural heritage and other regulatory milestones have been cleared.”
Solar Choice is one of Australia’s solar farm pioneers with Mr Gemmell having played a key role in originating 770MW DC of solar farms now operating around Australia. Solar Choice obtained land exclusivity and planning approvals for the Gannawarra (Vic), Whitsunday (Qld), Daydream (Qld), Hayman (Qld), and Hamilton Solar Farms (Qld), plus initial land exclusivity for the Darlington Point Solar Farm (NSW), all since further developed and progressed into operation by Edify Energy. Solar Choice also led the development of ACT’s Mount Majura Solar Farm.
“The Bulli Creek Solar Farm land lease options are optimally structured. Once the first lease is triggered for Stage 1 then exclusivity cascades across the balance 13,000 acres of land for up to 50 years, allowing ample time to build out the site’s vast grid capacity as Queensland’s energy market conditions flex and adjust with green hydrogen generation, the rise of battery storage and the inevitable retirement of coal generators” Mr Gemmell said.
The Bulli Creek Solar Farm first made national headlines in 2015 when Solar Choice secured planning approval for the major project – the size of a large coal fired generator – at a time when then Prime Minister Tony Abbott was seeking to abolish the Renewable Energy Target. Many solar and wind farm developers at that time had gone dormant or fled the country due to investment uncertainty.
“Grid studies at Bulli Creek have been well advanced for 475MW AC and 200MW AC stage optionality, or a single 675MW AC first stage. These will now be revisited with provision for major battery storage” said Mr Gemmell.
“Importantly each stage of the project will be owned by a separate SPV filled with whatever equity and debt is best brought to that particular stage. There is full investor flexibility” he said.
Solar Choice – which also operates Australia’s residential and commercial roof-top solar quote comparison service – has been headquartered in Manly in Warringah since 2008 where numerous national and global solar farm businesses have also established themselves in recent years. These include Wirsol, Edify Energy, NEXTracker and more recently the global EPC firm PCL Construction. Manly has since become known in industry circles as “Solar Beach”.
Advisory firm Pitcher Partners and lawyers Maddocks are assisting Solar Choice in conducting a select tender process to on-board a new partner for the Bulli Creek Solar Farm project.