Australia's largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power project reached a major construction milestone today as contractor and technology provider, First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR), joined owners Verve Energy and GE (NYSE: GE) unit GE Energy Financial Services to mark the commencement of panel installation at the Greenough River Solar Farm. WA Energy Minister, Peter Collier, landholders, members of the Geraldton community and local contractors were present to help celebrate this achievement.
"The demonstration of this proven technology in WA on a commercial scale should encourage the development of larger projects and reduce renewable energy costs in the medium to long term," the Minister said.
Construction of the 10-megawatt solar farm 50km south of Geraldton began just four months ago. With above-ground electrical work completed and structural supports now installed, the next phase of construction will see local workers install approximately 150,000 First Solar PV modules. Scheduled for completion in mid-2012, the project is expected to create almost 100 jobs.
"The successful delivery of the Greenough River Solar Farm will help kick-off a long-term, sustainable market for utility-scale solar in Australia. First Solar has a strong record of successful project delivery, enhanced by working with local communities to ensure projects make a meaningful and lasting contribution," said Jack Curtis, Vice President - Business Development & Sales, First Solar.
"When in operation, First Solar's panels produce electricity with no water use, no waste production and no CO2 emissions," Mr. Curtis added.
"GE Energy Financial Services sees Australia as a key growth market that will continue to need capital to fuel its expanding renewable energy industry. We hope this is the first of many such milestones in the country," said Jason Willoughby, GE Energy Financial Services' Australia business leader. "With our strong partners, Verve Energy and First Solar, we are pleased to help make this landmark solar project a reality."
"The Greenough River Solar Farm is providing valuable experience for Verve Energy in the development of solar energy in WA," said Tony Narvaez, General Manager, Strategy & Business Development, Verve Energy. "This experience will be very useful when Verve Energy pursues its aim to develop other solar farm projects in the near future."
Western Australian state-owned power utility Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services each own 50 percent of the Greenough River Solar Farm, with the WA Government having provided A$20 million in funding, including A$10 million from the WA Royalties for Regions program. No debt has been raised to fund the project. First Solar is supplying its advanced thin film PV modules and engineering, procurement and construction services, in addition to operations and maintenance support once the solar farm is operational.
The WA Water Corporation, which is building the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant near Binningup, has committed to purchasing 100 percent of the solar farm's output.