Origin snaps up 1GW of solar projects as it plans for future without coal

Origin Energy, one of Australia’s big three energy gentailers, has snapped up nearly 1 gigawatt of large scale solar projects as it plans for a life without coal after the planned closure of Eraring in 2025.

The purchases include a NSW project that has planning approval for up to 900MW of capacity, and it represents the company’s biggest investment in large scale solar to date, although it is not its first.
Origin first entered the solar industry with its ill fated investment in the Sliver solar PV technology company a decade ago – and this latest move represents a substantial shift from the casual “panels in paddocks” dismissal of large scale solar PV by previous management.
The biggest investment comes in the Riverina district of NSW, where Origin has bought the Yarrabee solar project that is expected to build a 450MW facility in the first stage, but has approval to go to 900MW.

Origin also revealed that it bought – earlier this year – the 74MW Carisbrook solar project in central Victoria, which is targeted to reach commercial operations in 2023, subject to a final investment decision and other required approvals.
“Origin aims to lead the energy transition to net zero emissions through cleaner energy and customer solutions, and the acquisition of the Yarrabee Solar Farm development project demonstrates further progress on this ambition,” head of energy markets Greg Jarvis said.

“We believe the Yarrabee Solar Farm can play an important role in helping Origin provide cleaner energy to our customers, while also reducing emissions from our generation portfolio.
“Our teams will now focus on progressing development activities prior to a final investment decision targeted over the next couple of years, subject to upgrades to the Transgrid transmission network.
“More broadly, the team continues to focus on the multi-gigawatt opportunity to grow renewable energy and storage, through developing greenfield sites or acquiring advanced stage pre-construction renewable projects like Yarrabee.”
It is not yet clear what the ownership structure of the solar projects will be. Origin has a history of taking its solar and wind projects to a certain point, signing a long term off-take agreement, and then selling the asset itself.

It did this with its first big investment in large scale solar, the 100MW Darling Downs solar farm that it sold to APA, and the Stockyard Hill wind project that it sold to developer and turbine supplier Goldwind.
The new solar investments are part of Origin’s “refresh” that includes its early exit from coal – with the Eraring closure fast tracked to 2025 from 2032 – its investment in the Eraring big battery and planned “multi-gigawatt” investment in renewables.

CEO Frank Calabria has said that the ownership structures were still being considered. To hear more about that strategy, please listen to our recent interview with Calabria on the Energy Insiders podcast.
The Yarrabee solar farm is located near Narrandera and was developed to this point by Reach Energy and PwC.
Reach, headed by former Hazelwood boss Tony Concannon, was also behind the development of South Australia’s biggest solar farm, the 220MW Bungala facility. Origin has a long term off-take agreement with Bungala, which is now owned by Italy’s Enel Green Power.

Origin says Yarrabee will feed in to the Project EnergyConnect line that will link NSW with South Australia, and will also link in with the NSW government’s proposed South-West Renewable Energy Zone.
The project originally envisaged a 35MW/70MWh battery storage installation, using Tesla technology, but it is not clear what Origin’s intention is at the moment for battery storage at the facility

credit: https://reneweconomy.com.au/origin-snaps-up-1gw-of-solar-projects-as-it-plans-for-future-without-coal/

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