Emu Downs Wind Farm is a tourist attraction. Photo: Trip Advisor

Energy infrastructure company APA Group typically works in the gas business but has a toe in wind power generation. Now thanks to a new tranche of funding from ARENA, it’s moving into solar in a signal that should resonate among other fossil fuel providers who can also read the tea leaves on the energy of the future.

The Emu Downs Solar Farm will share a transmission connection and facilities with APA Group’s existing 80 MW Emu Downs Wind Farm, in a co-located facility that will be a first for the sector in Western Australia.

It is expected this will result in savings on grid connections, relevant approvals and reduced environmental impacts. The two sources are also complementary in terms of power output, with solar generating during the day and wind generating more energy at night in the WA climate.

That means more continuous power and a stronger business case, according to ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht.

The solar plant is expected to generate enough electricity for around 6700 homes. A power purchase agreement is already in place for APA to sell the electricity and generation certificates to WA energy retailer, Synergy.

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said the organisation’s support for large-scale solar is bringing down the cost of developing the projects.

“Emu Downs Solar Farm would not have been viable just a few years ago,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“It demonstrates that along with support for increased solar installation, the ARENA effect is bringing down costs faster and fostering growth in Australia’s renewable energy sector.”

He said the amount of funding requests for projects is also going down to around 10 per cent of total project costs on average.

In the latest $92 million funding round, where 12 projects were successful, each dollar of ARENA funding is leveraging $10 from other sources.

In total, $1 billion of private investment has been committed to the projects, which will also triple the nation’s large-scale solar capacity, Mr Frischknecht said.

Six of the projects are in Queensland, and five are in New South Wales. They are expected to generate around 2300 jobs in regional areas and create thousands of indirect jobs.

APA core business to date comprises natural gas distribution pipelines, and ownership and investments in gas power stations, gas processing facilities, and gas storage facilities.

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