AGL Energy Limited (AGL) has been selected by the Commonwealth Government as the successful proponent in the solar photovoltaic (PV) category of the Solar Flagships Program independent reassessment process. AGL, together with First Solar (Australia) Pty Ltd (First Solar), will deliver large-scale solar PV power projects totalling 159 MW at two locations in New South Wales.

AGL will develop a 106 MW project at Nyngan and a 53 MW project at Broken Hill. First Solar will provide engineering, procurement and construction services for both projects, using its advanced thin-film PV modules.

AGL's Managing Director, Michael Fraser, said: "AGL is delighted to be working with the Commonwealth and NSW Governments, our project partner First Solar, and the people of Broken Hill and Nyngan to deliver these significant renewable energy projects. They represent a tremendous opportunity for AGL and the broader solar industry to begin the roll-out of solar power as a meaningful source of generation supply in Australia.

"This investment is also a clear demonstration of AGL's commitment to renewable energy and is a natural next step for us to build on our strong track record of wind, hydro and biomass renewable generation assets.

"Together with AGL's recent purchase of the Silverton Wind Farm development rights, the development of a large-scale solar PV project close to Broken Hill will see the location emerge as NSW's renewable energy hub."

The Commonwealth and NSW Governments will provide grant funding to support delivery of the projects under two funding agreements. The Commonwealth Government will provide $129.7 million to support project implementation, and the NSW Government will provide $64.9 million in funding. Total capital expenditure for the two solar projects is expected to be approximately $450 million, the balance of which will be funded from AGL's cash reserves.

On an annual basis, the projects will produce enough electricity to meet the needs of over 30,000 average households in New South Wales. The electricity and large-scale generation certificates produced will be sold to AGL under a long-term offtake arrangement to support its customer base and meet its renewable energy obligations under the Renewable Energy Target legislation.

"As an extra boost to the regional economies of both locations, we expect the projects to create significant new direct and flow-on employment during construction. Ongoing employment will also be generated to support project operations," said Mr Fraser.

It is estimated that approximately 150 direct construction jobs will be created in Broken Hill and up to 300 in Nyngan.

The projects will be developed in 2012-13 with construction complete in 2015. First Solar will maintain both projects for AGL for five years after commercial operation starts.

As required by the Solar Flagships Program, AGL's project will also include a research component under the Education Infrastructure Fund (EIF). The role of the EIF is to build a modern, productive, internationally-competitive Australian economy by supporting world-leading, strategically-focussed infrastructure investments that will transform Australian tertiary education and research. The Commonwealth Government will provide $40.7 million to UQ and UNSW to support construction of research infrastructure under the EIF.

About First Solar

First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems which use its advanced thin-film modules. The company's integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today. From raw material sourcing through end-of-life module collection and recycling, First Solar's renewable energy systems protect and enhance the environment. For more information about First Solar, please visit the First Solar website.

About AGL

AGL is one of Australia's leading integrated energy companies and is taking action toward creating a sustainable energy future for our investors, communities and customers. Drawing on over 170 years of experience, AGL operates retail and merchant energy businesses, power generation assets and an upstream gas portfolio. AGL has one of Australia's largest retail energy and dual fuel customer bases. AGL has a diverse power generation portfolio including base, peaking and intermediate generation plants, spread across traditional thermal generation as well as renewable sources including hydro, wind, landfill gas and biomass. AGL is Australia's largest private owner and operator of renewable energy assets and is looking to further expand this position by exploring a suite of low emission and renewable energy generation development opportunities.