GREEN DEALS: Infigen's solar calling

Infigen puts its near-term focus on solar but expects a wind surge in coming years, the CEFC gets a CEO, there's legal rumblings at the Macarthur wind farm and Carnegie Wave appears set for more government funding.

Infigen Energy

Infigen Energy is set to centre its near-term focus on solar power rather than wind, which has long been the hallmark of its business, Infigen boss Miles George has told the AFR.

At the moment the company's solar push revolves around its 35 MW Capital solar farm with Suntech. The company will find out within six months if the project, which was part of its Solar Flagships proposal, will receive ARENA funding. In October, ARENA chair Greg Bourne said a decision on the Solar Flagships projects would likely come in November, so the tail-end of six months from now would be a significant backtrack on the original schedule.

In regard to its wind assets, the company is planning to sell its US wind business in 1-2 years, while its expansion options in Australia will likely focus on further development of its Capital wind farm or another project in NSW, George said. The company was bullish about wind development in coming years in Australia however, thanks to the likelihood of the RET staying in place in its current form. Given the lead time for building a wind farm, leaving the RET alone would mean the big energy retailers “would really need to be in the market next year in a serious way to start meeting obligations from 2015 onwards,” George told the AFR.

Royalla solar farm

The development process for Australia’s largest solar farm should be smooth, according to the ACT government. The Royalla solar farm, to be developed by Spain’s FRV, won the express round of the ACT’s solar auction in September. It still needs to apply for a development application, but the government is hopeful it will be able to get the public on side.

"I think people – once they see the details of the proposal and they realise it's not polluting, it makes no noise, it generates very little traffic and it makes very little change to the existing environment – will see that big solar is a good neighbour," ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell said, according to the ABC.

At 20 MW it is not a major development on a world scale, but when complete (by 2014), it will be Australia’s biggest. It won’t however, hold that title for long, with the AGL-First Solar project, which won Solar Flagships funding, to be operational in financial year 2014/15.

The ACT will announce the winner of the second round of its large-scale solar auction sometime next year.

"It could be another 20 megawatt facility or it could be a number of smaller facilities that add up to 20 megawatts in total," Mr Corbell said.

Intriguingly FRV has named the project ‘Royalla 1’ so perhaps it is looking to push for the second round of funding as well through a Royalla 2 plan.

Geodynamics

There’s plenty of news at geothermal hopeful Geodynamics, with a buy-in to a geothermal project in the Solomon Islands and the completion of its second flow test at Habanero 4 in South Australia within the past week.

We’ll start with the latter, and the second open flow test achieved an average of 38 kg/s for 104 minutes at over 29 MPa (4,200 psi) flowing pressure after local stimulation. This was an improvement on the first test, which the company said showed “local stimulation has enhanced the well’s productivity by improving the connection between the well and the fracture zone.”

Moving to the Solomon Islands, and Geodynamics has entered into a deal with Kentor Energy – a subsidiary of ASX-listed Kentor Gold – that could see it acquire up to 70 per cent in a conventional geothermal power supply project in the region.

Geodynamics will earn an initial 25 per cent interest in the Savo Island Geothermal Power Project following the completion of initial geophysical studies to determine target locations for a drilling program at a cost of $350,000. It can earn an additional 45 per cent interest through exploration drilling and the completion of a feasibility study, which will cost in the order of $4.65 million.

Preliminary exploration studies at the project suggest the island could host a substantial geothermal reservoir at temperatures in excess of 260 degrees Celsius and at depths of 500 - 1,500 metres.

Snowtown II

Siemens has announced it will still source some of its wind towers for the Snowtown II wind farm from Australia, although fewer than it had planned. A curve ball was thrown at efforts to have 50 per cent of the towers sourced in Australia when its local supplier – RPG – went belly up. Now it has called on E & A Contractors to supply 20 of the 90 wind towers after E&A secured key personnel and assets used by RPG in the manufacture of wind towers.

CEFC

The $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation has its inaugural CEO.

Oliver Yates, formerly a banker heavily involved in Macquarie Group’s renewable energy activity, started in the role on Monday. He will have no shortage of opportunities to make a big difference on Australia’s energy landscape given the funds available, but it could all come crashing down quickly if there is a change of government at next year’s federal election.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the CEFC commits to projects ahead of the election. Yates can start investing from July 1 and the more moves he makes, the more complicated shutting down the financing body will be for a Coalition government.

Macarthur wind farm

The Macarthur wind farm, Australia’s largest wind farm to date, will likely be fully operational come the end of February. Until now AGL and joint venture partner Meridian Energy have just said it will be complete in the first quarter of 2013, but as the finishing line nears, more specifics are coming to light. In the meantime, a legal fight between contractors at the site is underway.

According to The Standard, the freight company that delivered all the wind towers for the project may pursue legal action against Leighton Contractors and Keppel Prince. The company is looking to recoup nearly $2 million “for works it alleges were caused by mismanagement by both Leighton and Keppel Prince,” The Standard said. Both Leighton and Keppel have disputed the merits of the claim.

Carnegie Wave Energy

ASX-listed Carnegie Wave Energy has entered a trading halt ahead of a funding announcement. Details are few and far between with the company just saying it will release “an announcement regarding a government and private funding initiative” on Wednesday.

Giving the linking of government and private funding it appears likely the announcement will be funding from the $200 million Southern Cross Renewable Energy Fund, which made its first investment in late September. The Southern Cross Fund is made up of $100 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and $100 million from Softbank China Venture Capital, a venture capital firm in Asia – in other words, it’s a ‘government and private funding initiative’.