Banks back 20MW of Aussie PV

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) has reached financial close on its 20MW Royalla solar project in Australia, with construction to kick off next month.

The deal – backed by ANZ and National Australia Bank – represents the first time a utility-scale solar project has received project financing in Australia. 

EPC work will be carried out by Acciona’s local subsidiary, with completion slated for mid-2014 – at which time Royalla will become one of the largest solar projects in the country. 

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – which contains the capital of Canberra, and is the country’s smallest state – has set out to allocate capacity for utility-scale PV capacity via reverse auctions, offering up 20MW at a time.

FRV, an Amsterdam-based solar developer whose primary focus in the past has been Spain, won the entire 20MW in the first bidding round.

Two weeks ago the ACT government awarded a second 20MW – with 13MW going to China’s Zhenfa Solar and 7MW going to Australia’s OneSun. 

With just 2.4GW of PV in place at the end of 2012, Australia is widely seen as a promising but under-performing solar market, and tiny ACT has emerged as something of a leader among the states.

After years of foot-dragging, the first project under the country’s ill-fated Solar Flagships scheme finally secured all necessary financing in late July. Australian utility AGL Energy and its partner First Solar will build 155MW in New South Wales, in what will be the largest solar project in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Many other Solar Flagships projects have gone off the rails. Owned by a handful of private-equity funds, FRV has been quiet in recent years after a flurry of development – mostly in Spain, but also in the US and Italy – that has left it with development track record stretching to hundreds of megawatts. 

In 2011 SunEdison acquired FRV’s US subsidiary, which came with a 1.4GW pipeline.