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Shell joins solar push in coal country of world's top exporter
[HONG KONG] Royal Dutch Shell is investigating a solar power project in an Australian region better known for its fossil fuels, particularly coal.
The company is studying the feasibility of a solar development on its land in the Western Downs area of Queensland, which is subject to a final investment decision, a spokeswoman said by email.
Though Shell's statement didn't elaborate on timing or size, the regional council this week said it had approved construction of the 250-megawatt Delga Solar Farm project proposed by Shell at Woleebee, near Wandoan.
Shell plans to spend as much as US$1 billion a year on its New Energies division as the transition to renewable power accelerates, and will partner with Sunseap Group to invest in solar throughout the Asia Pacific.
Equis Energy earlier this month approved a 1,000-megawatt solar plant near Wandoan, a region long associated with a potential large coal mine development by Glencore.
"Investment in Australia's large-scale solar sector has had a record-breaking 12 months with around 1,678 megawatts worth of new projects currently under construction across the country," said Leonard Quong, an associate with Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Sydney.
Falling technology costs and surging electricity prices are helping to drive a boom in the sector, Mr Quong said.
Equis' A$1.5 billion (S$1.613 billion) Wandoan South Solar Project will be one of the largest in the country and is scheduled to start delivering power in 2019, the Singapore-based company said Aug 7. Australia is the world's biggest exporter of thermal and metallurgical coal.
There are 38 solar plants operating in Australia with a capacity to generate 411 megawatts of power, and a further 29 under construction, according to BNEF.