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Ayala unit secures funding for Australia solar farm

THE Ayala group and its Australian partner have secured AU$619 million, or around P23.1 billion, in bank financing for a 400-megawatt (MW) solar farm project in New South Wales.

In a press release on Monday, listed firm AC Energy Corp. said Australian banks Westpac and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, along with Bank of China, will provide debt financing for the initial stage of the project.

The financial closure for the project’s first stage would cover 400 MW of alternating current out of a combined 720 MW of solar power and 400 MW-hour (MWh) lithium-ion battery storage.

“This is the product of a fruitful partnership with UPC and our local Australian team. We look forward to helping Australia achieve and exceed its long-term decarbonization goals by continuing to develop and construct more renewable energy projects in the country,” said Patrice R. Clausse, chief operating officer of AC Energy International, in a statement.

He described the venture as AC Energy’s “major milestone” as it marked the firm’s first project in Australia.

AC Energy said that it had committed $320 million (P15.32 billion) of equity for the project, New England Solar Farm, which is under UPCAC, a joint venture between AC Energy Infrastructure Corp. (ACEIC) and UPC Renewables Australia.

Ayala Corp. unit ACEIC holds majority interest in AC Energy.

The solar farm is seen to significantly contribute to AC Energy’s target of reaching 5,000 MW of renewables capacity by 2025, in line with its goal to become the largest listed renewables platform in Southeast Asia.

It is targeted to connect to the grid and initially start producing energy by July next year. The rest of the project is projected to begin operations around the end of 2023, AC Energy said.

The listed firm said that it is also planning to install a 400-MWh lithium-ion battery storage facility in the area, which would help in ensuring grid stability and provide energy at peak periods. The first 50 MWh of the facility, which is supported by the NSW Emerging Energy Program, is expected to become operational by the middle of next year.

Once completed, the solar farm would produce enough energy to power up around 250,000 typical households in New South Wales per year, and help fill in the gap left by the expected closure of the AGL Macquarie’s 2,000-MW Liddell Power Station by 2022.

The project is also seen to bring in 500 construction jobs, and will generate employment opportunities for locals in Uralla, NSW, and the region.

Green Light Contractors Pty. Ltd, the local subsidiary of Spanish-listed contractor Elecnor, S.A., is in charge of constructing the solar farm.

AC Energy said it expects the solar farm to participate in the NSW Electricity Infrastructure RoadMap bidding process, which aims to deliver lower energy prices to consumers.

“The New England Solar Farm is the first project within our large portfolio to reach financial close and we are very excited about building our first project in Australia,” UPC Renewables Executive Chairman Brian Caffyn said.

“This is a very large energy project even for Australia and we are proud to be associated with the New England Solar Farm and the local community and helping to transition NSW towards a clean, lower cost energy future,” he added.

Around two weeks ago, AC Energy President and Chief Executive Officer Eric T. Francia told reporters that the company is setting its sights on a new renewable energy target for 2030, where local and foreign projects would have a 50-50 portfolio mix.

On Monday, shares in AC Energy inched down 2.67% or 0.21 centavos to close at P7.66 apiece. — Angelica Y. Yang

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