Japan-headquartered, international renewable energy project developer, investor and EPC company Bison Energy has quietly built up a portfolio of solar farm projects in Australia, and is now expanding into New Zealand.
We asked Bison’s Country Director and Head of Business Development, Brendan Murphy, to give us some background about the company and its growing operations in the region.
What is Bison Energy’s corporate background, and how long have you been operating in Australia?
Bison Energy is a private global developer, investor, EPC and asset owner for environmentally friendly renewable energy projects.
We are committed to sustainable energy through the production of renewable generation and storage power plants.
As an international leading renewable developer and asset owner, we have experienced phenomenal growth with portfolios across various parts of Europe, Eastern-Asia, the Pacific and now in the United States.
Bison Energy Australia (BEA) originated operations in Australia in 2017.
Bison originally developed the Walla Walla Solar Farm. Can you run us through your involvement in this project?
We identified early the gap in the NEM with larger connection applications to the 330kV network. We sourced multiple sites where the 330kV runs through of which Walla Walla was one, and negotiated the land arrangements with the two title holders.
Throughout late 2017 and 2018 we continued to develop the project in the planning and connection process, then in mid 2019 we came to an agreement with FRV to sell down the project rights as the project moved through the final milestones.
Bison’s early model was to develop and sell our larger projects, however due to the strong market we now have full intention to develop, construct and hold.
What are Bison’s current projects in Australia?
BEA have a mixed portfolio of projects ranging from:
- Sub 5 MW (4.95 MW AC/ 6+ MW DC) solar plants, some of which range up to 8.5 MW DC to support DC coupled BESS.
- Utility-scale solar projects ranging from 30 MW up to a new 1 GW project which just commenced development in NSW.
- Standalone BESS projects ranging from 5 MW to 100 MW with a mix of 2-4 hours storage.
We're also in the early development stages of investigating the implementation of hydrogen generation and production.
As we are headquartered in Japan, our off-taker strategy can be done internally between countries and partners we collaborate with in Japan.
What is Bison’s most advanced battery project in Australia?
Our Bairnsdale BESS project in south-east Victoria is nearing the final connection approval stages. It will be built on a 3 hectare site and have a capacity of 60 MW/240 MWh, which will make it the largest energy storage project to date in the East Gippsland region.
We are aiming to start construction in early 2024, with grid connection anticipated by late 2024. We are working closely with suppliers to finalise the design and construction plans, as well as with Australian energy retailers to support the financial close process along with a Japanese utility partner and a Northern American funding group.
What can you tell us about Bison’s plans in New Zealand?
BEA’s plans in New Zealand are to continue our achievements of solar development and investment with an initial target of 300 MW by 2026.
We already have one project under development south-west of Christchurch called the Somerton Solar Farm.
It will be a 37 MW solar farm connecting into the EA Networks near Ashburton.
What attracted Bison to NZ as a place to invest?
Besides it obviously being a beautiful country, the NZ market is an interesting one being so renewable already.
The NZ government with TransPower and the electricity distribution businesses are all advanced in understanding the further need to electrify everything and support a greener, cleaner future which gives investors and developers like ourselves great confidence.
We also firmly believe NZ can become a major exporter of renewable generated bio-fuels and hydrogen, and be the pivotal supplier for power to neighbouring islands.
We're committed to NZ and believe the country can get to its target of 100% renewable electricity by 2030, and we're here to support that.
Shizen Energy has come onboard as a minority shareholder. Can you tell us a bit about Shizen and what this deal involves?
Shizen is also a major Japanese headquartered company, however much larger than Bison in that they're an independent power producer with approximately 380 staff and have developed over 1 GW of renewable projects.
The minority equity share into Bison means that Shizen can support Bison with our further pipeline growth across many countries, not just Australia/ NZ, and invest at a projects level also.
We are very excited with Shizen Energy’s capability to deliver further development and financial support and can’t wait to jointly bring more exciting projects to the market.