BlackRock Invests in Growing Australian Solar Market

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--The steady growth of renewable-power generation in Australia has scored backing from BlackRock Inc. (BLK), which has bought a majority stake in two projects, in one of the country's largest solar financing deals to date.

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On Friday, the asset manager said it acquired 90% of the 150-megawatt Daydream and 50-megawatt Hayman solar farms in Queensland state from developer Edify Energy, which will hold the remaining 10% equity interest.

The deal comes just over a month after Tesla Inc. (TSLA) Chief Executive Elon Musk agreed to build the world's largest lithium-ion battery system in Australia, collecting power generated by a wind farm in South Australia. South Australia state was hit by a string of blackouts over the past year, raising concerns as some of the country's older coal-fired energy plants are shuttered.

BlackRock said the acquisition adds further solar resources and country diversification to its existing renewable-energy portfolio. Construction on the Australian projects is set to begin and they are scheduled to be fully operational in 2018.

The assets were bought through a private fund managed by BlackRock Real Assets, with long-term debt financing provided by the government's Australia's Clean Energy Finance Corp., Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd. and international investment firm Natixis. BlackRock Real Assets has about $30 billion in invested and committed real-estate and infrastructure assets and capital.

Jim Barry, global head of BlackRock Real Assets, said the company's renewable power investments currently amount to more than $4.8 billion of equity assets under management. "We continue to invest in attractive markets in order to provide a flow of addressable investment opportunities for our clients," he said.

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Renewable energy still accounts for a relatively small slice of power production in Australia, although the country's major utilities are investing in expanding output.

In May, Origin Energy Ltd. (ORG.AU) sold its Darling Downs solar farm project in Queensland to energy-infrastructure operator APA Group in a deal that had it agree to buy all the power generated by the farm until 2030. In about a year, Origin added more than 650 megawatts of solar to its portfolio as it tracks toward a target of up to 1,500 megawatts of large-scale renewable generation by 2020.

Sustainable Energy Research Analytics, a consultancy, estimated there is about 311 megawatts of solar power now in operation in Australia, 1 gigawatt under construction and a further 6 gigawatts in advanced stages of design.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 11, 2017 03:43 ET (07:43 GMT)