Australia’s solar coming of age: Firms make hay while sun shines

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Solar power in Australia will mature this year, a top lawyer forecast as multiple law firms acted on the closing of a major deal for projects in Queensland and Victoria.

“2017 is when solar in Australia comes of age and the prediction that we will become the ‘Saudi Arabia’ of solar will start to ring true,” said Simon Curie, Norton Rose Fulbright’s global head of energy.

NRF advised international solar energy company Wirsol Energy on the acquisition and the project financing of a portfolio of three large-scale solar PV projects in Queensland and Victoria. Meanwhile, Ashurst advised Australian renewable energy developer Edify Energy on the matter. DLA Piper also advised the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which provided funding for one of the projects that was acquired.

Under the deal, which reached financial close on 10 March, Wirsol acquired the 57.5MW Whitsunday project and the 57.5MW Hamilton project, both in Queensland, and the 50MW Gannawarra project in Victoria.The projects, which are being developed by Edify Energy, are funded by $231m in project financing from Commonwealth Bank of Australia, NordLB and Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Edify and Wirsol oversee the development of the project and have provided equity including a transfer agreement. In addition to a $9.5m grant from ARENA, the Whitsunday solar farm is supported by the Queensland Government through a 20-year power purchase agreement under its Solar 150 program. The Gannawarra solar farm, the first large-scale solar farm in Victoria, has a 13-year purchase agreement with EnergyAustralia.

“This was the first portfolio acquisition and financing of utility-scale solar PV in Australia, the first financing for solar PV with merchant exposure and long term debt from the local market, and the first large scale solar PV project to reach financial close in Victoria,” Currie said.

The large cross-border NRF team included lawyers from the firm’s Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Hamburg offices. Currie led the team, assisted by lead associate Tom Bramah, senior associate Melissa Park, and special counsel Raymond Lou.

Australian partners Noni Shannon, Emanuel Confos, Michael French, and Justin Lucas (who were in Australia), and Timo Noftz (who was in Germany) also advised on the deal. Also working on the deal were senior associates Kathy Prince, Steven Choi, Juliette King, Kelly Davies, Jacqueline Plant; associates Sally-Ann Rowland, Michael Volks, Tom Langsford, Ben Carrozzi and Sam Purcell; and lawyer Jacqueline Fetchet.

NRF said that it is currently working on more than 20 large-scale projects in Australia.

The Ashurst team was led by partners Paul Newman (Utilities) and Ben Warne (Corporate). They were assisted by partner Damian Salsbury (Real Estate), counsel Suzanne Cleary and Teresa Scott, foreign associate Tamsyn Zulch, senior associates Carol Kahler, Lillian Yeung and Kellie Hairsine, and lawyers Tristan Shepherd, Rebecca Roach, Joey Chan, Rose Sanderson and Kimberley Hutchinson (Corporate, Real Estate, Infrastructure and Utilities); partner Jock O'Shea (Finance); partners Gavin Scott, John Briggs and Jeff Lynn and senior associates Paul Wilson and Sophie Osborn (Resources).

The DLA Piper team was led by finance and projects partner Kate Papailiou with senior associate Marnie Carroll, senior foreign legal associate Gemma Lawrence and solicitor Billie Stevens.


Related stories:
KWM acts on aircraft financing and clean energy deals
Mills Oakley acts in sale of Queensland’s largest solar farm

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