CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Moree's mystery solar player

A new group has been added to the consortium working on the Moree Solar Farm, while CBD Energy finds its American opportunity.

Climate Spectator

A new group has joined the consortium behind the now at-risk 150MW Moree Solar Farm in New South Wales, although the name of the party is yet to be released. The consortium, which originally consisted of Pacific Hydro, BP Solar and FRV, met with the Moree Plains Shire Council last week, introducing the new party and reaffirming its commitment to the project, according to the Moree Champion.

"There has been a little bit of a changing of the guard; a new group has come on board and I have great confidence in these new stakeholders,” Mayor Katrina Humphries told the paper.

A spokesperson for Pacific Hydro told Climate Spectator that the name of the new stakeholder could not be divulged before its bid was resubmitted to the government, with an announcement to be made at that point. The group is due to submit at noon on Friday.

The project was dealt a blow on February 7 when the federal government re-opened the tender for round one of the Solar Flagships program after a financing deadline was not met. The three other shortlisted Round 1 Solar Flagship photovoltaic (PV) applicants – AGL, Infigen-Suntech and TRUenergy – will now compete with the Moree Solar Farm consortium to gain access to the $306.5 million grant on offer. Both the council and the consortium remain publicly confident the Moree Solar Farm will proceed despite the setback.

CBD Energy

Renewable energy company CBD Energy last Friday announced plans to merge with US-based Westinghouse Solar. The Mark Vaile-chaired, Sydney-based group will pick up 85 per cent of the combined entity and said it saw the deal as a great entry point to the lucrative North American solar market.

"The United States is forecast to be one of the largest markets for solar energy generation in the next few years. Consequently, CBD has been looking for a point of entry into the US market for some time and believes that the acquisition of Westinghouse Solar is an ideal fit for that purpose,” Gerry McGowan, CEO of CBD Energy, said.

"Moreover, the Westinghouse Solar technology and product suite appear to have immediate applicability to CBD’s Australian residential market that we hope will yield improvements in market share and profitability.”

The deal is expected to close by the end of the third quarter, with CBD Energy to pursue listing on the Nasdaq before the transaction is complete.

Silex Systems

Silex Systems released its quarterly results this week, reporting its Solar Systems division was close to finalising its restructure, with a new business model destined to focus "increasingly on medium scale commercial and large scale projects.”

The $470 million company announced the restructure back in August 2011 after meeting with challenging trading conditions in the solar panel market. The company said conditions continued to be demanding but was confident that its solar investments would eventually pay off.

''We think the story for PV is very positive,'' CEO Michael Goldsworthy said, according to Fairfax. ''The industry has been going through birthpains, but the bottom line is PV is becoming competitive economically and we believe we are positioning ourselves very well.''

The Solar Systems division is currently constructing a 500kW (0.5MW) test plant consisting of 16 CS500 Dish System units at the Bridgewater demonstration facility in central Victoria and a 2MW solar pilot plant in Mildura (Victoria), with a power purchase agreement on the latter now "well advanced".

The company is also seeing opportunity overseas, with "significant progress” made on pilot plant opportunities in the Middle East and the US, including the selection of a site for a 1MW demonstration facility in Southern California.

Torrens Energy

Geothermal group Torrens Energy announced the resignation of Managing Director John Canaris last week. The company said Canaris would remain on the board as a non-executive director and will continue to be a key shareholder. He has been involved with the company since its inception in 2006.

Torrens is one of the many publicly-listed geothermal companies to lose large chunks of market value over the past couple of years, and financial difficulties saw it suspend geothermal operations in April 2011. The company is currently assessing new non-geothermal opportunities as it waits on technical advances in the geothermal industry. The process of finding new projects will now be overseen by Dennis Gee, who will move from non-executive chairman to the position of executive chairman.