GE invests in $348 mln in wind farm after Australian subsidy deadlock ends

General Electric will help fund a $348 million Australian wind farm, the country’s third largest, after political leaders ended a deadlock over state subsidies that had stalled the $13 billion industry for over a year.

GE, Swiss private equity firm Partners Group Holding AG , Canadian pension fund OPTrust and UK-based Renewable Energy Systems Ltd said they will fund the 240-megawatt Ararat windfarm, three days after the government passed a law securing future subsidies for renewable energy.

Windfarms are Australia’s No. 2 renewable energy source, behind hydropower but ahead of solar, providing a quarter of the country’s clean energy and 4 percent of its total energy demand. But investment in the sector froze after the conservative government said last year it wanted to cut the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET).

The Ararat windfarm, which will power 123,000 homes, was among dozens of projects shelved, and the commitment to revive it signals the industry is kicking back to life now the level of state support has been agreed. Under Australian law, the RET must be agreed by both the Federal government and opposition.

“With certainty comes investment,” said GE’s president and CEO for Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, Geoff Culbert.

“That’s our experience overseas and that’s what we’ll see here in Australia now that the RET is fully resolved. This decision has immediately unlocked half a billion dollars of direct foreign investment into Australia,” Culbert added.

Culbert dismissed remarks by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who earlier this month described windfarms as “visually awful” and a potential health hazard. The government plans to appoint a windfarm commissioner to process complaints about the industry.

“It’s important that the views of all groups are heard, and that any concerns are addressed with fact and science,” Culbert said in an emailed statement.