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Herbert Smith Freehills has advised Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU) and Westpac Banking Corporation (Westpac) on the project financing for the construction, commissioning and operation of the A$225 million Ross River Solar Farm -  the largest solar project to reach Financial Close in Queensland to date. 

Located 20km south west of Townsville, construction of the 148MWp(DC) utility‐scale energy project was developed by ESCO Pacific (ESCO) and Palisade Investment Partners (Palisade). ESCO obtained development approval for the solar farm from Townsville City Council in June 2016. Construction will be undertaken by Downer Utilities Australia and is expected to take 12 months.

The project will be funded through senior debt along with equity commitments from Palisade’s recently-launched Palisade Renewable Energy Fund and three of Palisade’s institutional clients.

The successful close of the project was achieved without CEFC debt finance or an ARENA grant, representing a significant achievement for Queensland’s solar industry and another step towards reducing the nation’s carbon footprint.

The Herbert Smith Freehills team was led by partner Gerard Pike, who was supported by executive counsel Alison Dodd, senior associates Helen Beatty and Caroline Rowe and solicitors Michael D'Agostino and Michael Thurin.

Gerard Pike said, “ESCO, Palisade, ANZ, BTMU and Westpac have done an excellent job in bringing this very large-scale solar project to Financial Close and into the construction phase quickly and smoothly.

“Projects like this are excellent for Queensland’s regional economies and also demonstrate how the cost reductions in large-scale PV in Australia in recent years mean that they are attractive to long term infrastructure investors.

“This is the third and largest of three new solar projects we have worked on to achieve Financial Close in Queensland in the last three weeks. We think there will be many more this year and these will represent solid progress towards meeting Australia’s Renewable Energy Target”

Herbert Smith Freehills has the leading renewables legal practice in Australia and the deal is another example of the strong work of the firm’s Renewables and Project Finance Team. The team has worked on the following recent projects this year:

  • the acquisition of the Darling Downs Solar Project by APA Group;
  • the Oakey Solar Project (Stage 1) and Longreach Solar Projects sponsored by Canadian Solar;
  • the Gullen Range Solar Project sponsored by Beijing Jingneng Clean Energy Co; and
  • the Clare Solar Farm sponsored by FRV.