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Energy & Utilities

Does solar work in Tasmania? The story of the Bell Bay Solar Farm

4 Oct 2023, by Amy Sarcevic

When Climate Capital announced plans to build an 8.5MW solar farm in Bell Bay, Tasmania, Chief Executive, Shane Bartel, admittedly received a few raised eyebrows.

With around 150 days of rain each year, Australia’s southernmost state is rarely credited for its sunny weather.

But for Bartel, the green-field site was a logical choice, given its close proximity to the Bell Bay Manufacturing Zone and a range of multi-billion-dollar clean energy projects.

Among them, Palmerston Substation, which will soon host a giant, two hour storage battery, courtesy of Neoen.

“Admittedly, Tassie might not be the first place you think of when scoping out a solar farm. But really it’s a solid place to build. It has a lot to offer in terms of solar irradiation and a cool climate for improved panel efficiencies,” Mr Bartel said ahead of the Bell Bay Major Projects Conference.

On a per unit basis, the farm’s output will be comparable to that of some farms in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Besides that, the company focusses on a range of different ways to utilise its environment and create value for customers.

“The supply profile of a solar farm is also very important. Some of our customers may require increased morning or afternoon generation, for example, so we’ll apply different framing designs for a solar farm to meet our customer’s requirements,” Mr Bartel said.

In some of its recent projects, the company has also been able to offer a mix of supporting technologies. These range from batteries, to hydrogen electrolysers and Bitcoin miners.

“Not every funder or financier would do that, but we understand the market. We like to expand what we have onsite – battery storage, more solar, or whatever. Essentially, any other ways of value adding over the 25 -30 year life cycle. We’re not a set and forget business, we’re constantly extracting value from what’s in the ground.

“It’s all about understanding the businesses we are supporting. We want to provide a product that works with their current and future needs, so we avoid a fixed mindset and tend to be selective on which projects we get up and running.”

The company’s power purchase agreement (PPA) terms are another key way of maximising value.

“We are very happy to do low cost PPAs at longer terms. It takes the risk out of the operating asset life. The longer period we can contract to, the less risk to us, as we know what revenue we’ll get for the electricity. That’s why our minimum PPA terms tend to be from 10 years and up to 25 years in recent times.

“As a result, the electricity we sell competes directly with the sum of grid-supplied electricity prices and variable network fees.”

Climate Capital’s foray into small solar solutions, generally, was also about minimising risk. The company builds, owns and operates a range of behind-the-meter or offtake agreement based projects, from 1 to 100MW in capacity. Its portfolio also offers sector and geographic diversification.

“Small solar solutions generate high value, quickly. They can often be turned around in just eighteen months, unlike larger projects which can take years and may not happen at all, given the risks involved. The diversification we always strive for in our portfolio enhances the risk profile further,” Bartel said.

Alongside the Bell Bay Solar Farm, Climate Capital has a range of projects in operation. In Western Australia, it has a behind the meter supply arrangement with a sand mine north of Perth. A second behind the meter supply in Whyalla, South Australia is supporting a local bitcoin operating company. And in New South Wales, the company is helping the Junee Prime Lamb abattoir offset a significant amount of its electricity prices.

Reflecting on these projects and sharing further insights into his strategy, Shane Bartel will present at the upcoming Bell Bay Major Projects Conference.

This year’s event will be held 5-6 December at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Launceston.

Learn more and register your place here.

About Shane Bartel

Shane Bartel is Chief Executive Officer at Climate Capital. Since 2001, Shane’s experience has extended across the asset development cycle and includes leading acquisition, design, environmental approval and commercial activities on behalf of wind, solar, biomass and hydro power developers. Shane actively supports STEM, gender equality and charitable activities within his industry and Tasmania.

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