X-Elio’s Blue Grass Solar Project Obtains Loan from Clean Energy Finance Corporation
“We have risen to the financial challenge of supporting early development, while providing substantial investment and jobs to regional Australia. We have also supported the industry during difficult economic times such as COVID-19, while building market confidence and attracting private sector capital.
The financing, together with funding from ING and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, brought the project’s debt funding to over $100 million and enabled it to reach financial close.
Australia’s X-Elio country manager, Belinda Fan, said the project has been funded so far with equity from KKR and Brookfield, allowing construction to start in October 2020.
“We’re one of those companies that’s comfortable putting equity on the line to start construction before getting financing,” she said. The Australian Financial Review.
The company has also entered into behind-the-scenes abduction deals with customers, including a deal it struck with Salesforce in October 2020 and another with an as-yet-undisclosed “gentailer.”
“Indeed, the funding process has really followed this securing of this additional levy,” Ms Fan said.
The Blue Grass Solar Project will include 375,000 bifacial solar panels, which generate electricity more efficiently than traditional panels, as well as half-cut cell technology, which shrinks the cell to half its normal size.
This innovation means that smaller cells produce half the current, reducing power loss and improving efficiency to produce more power.
Ms Fan said bifacial panels, which have become increasingly common over the past two years, typically increase efficiency by 5-10%. But she said the cost of generation is still “far short of” the government’s 2035 stretch target for ultra-low-cost solar power.
Learmonth said CEFC has now contributed more than 3.5 gigawatts of low-emission generation capacity, including 2 GW of solar power and 1.5 GW of wind power.
“This clean energy will support our energy transition for generations to come,” he said.
The influx of renewables into Australia’s energy grid over the past decade has led some to call for an end to taxpayers’ money subsidizing established technologies such as wind and solar.
But Mr Learmonth defended CEFC’s continued investment in solar power, saying the push to net-zero emissions by 2050 would require more renewable projects, not fewer. CEFC provides debt financing that is eventually repaid and recycled into other projects.
“The transition to net-zero emissions requires substantial decarbonization, at a much faster pace than what we are currently achieving,” he said.
“One of the most effective ways to do this is to strengthen Australia’s renewable energy sector and reduce the cost of solar PV generation to help meet the ambitious goals of technologies such as green hydrogen, low-emission steel and aluminum.”
The Blue Grass project is Spain-based X-Elio’s most advanced project in Australia and is expected to be followed by a pipeline of renewable energy projects in New South Wales. Options for the Victorian X-Elio project are developing more slowly due to network congestion issues in the West Murray area, Ms Fan added.