Bluefield targets Australian solar with Sydney office – exclusive

The UK-based manager plans to build a portfolio Down Under after opening a hub in the city and is also looking to expand in Europe, with both separate from its London-listed fund.

UK-based solar asset manager Bluefield Partners has opened an office in Sydney with a view to building a new portfolio in Australia in the coming years, Infrastructure Investor has learnt.

The new office is being headed by Mike Rand, one of Bluefield’s three founders and managing partners. Rand joined from Foresight Group in 2009 and helped form the London-listed Bluefield Solar Income Fund.

The company’s investments in Australia will be pursued via a separate vehicle from BSIF, which will remain focused purely on UK-based assets. The risk profile of Australian solar and the currency differences are understood to be factors in separating the geographies.

New investments in Australia are expected to follow a similar policy to BSIF, which largely includes investing in primary market assets without taking construction risk. The country’s solar power sector enjoyed a record-breaking year in 2017, bringing the total installed capacity to 6.4GW from 5.5GW, according to Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator. Targets for the company’s build-outs are still being assessed.

Bluefield is also understood to be considering investments in the wider European market, including in Italy and Spain where new primary market opportunities have recently become available. Bluefield postponed an IPO of a European solar fund in 2015 following wider unfavourable market conditions. The European investments will also be made separately from BSIF.

The moves come after a year in which BSIF recorded a rise in net asset value from 105.07 pence per share in December 2016 to 112.4 in December 2017. The fund made one 5MW investment during the year, bringing its total portfolio to 446.5MW.

Bluefield’s UK-listed peers have also made similar moves abroad. The Foresight Solar Fund made its first overseas acquisition last year with a 48.5 percent stake in the 110MW Bannerton site in Australia, investing through the same fund that holds a 528MW portfolio predominantly comprised of UK solar assets. The listed NextEnergy Solar Fund also diversified last year, spending €131.9 million on a 34.5MW portfolio in Italy.