Australia’s Maoneng Group to Build Largest Solar Power Plant in Southern Hemisphere

Maoneng Group (a renewable energy company reportedly affiliated with China’s Zhenfa Group) has received approval from the government of New South Wales in Australia for the construction of the Sunraysia Solar Farm that is to be located near Balranald, New South Wales.  If a second project is likewise granted approval at this location, Sunraysia would become the largest solar power producer in the southern hemisphere.

The government of New South Wales granted its approval for the project despite some push-back against the opaque nature of the company’s ownership.  The company describes itself as “Australian Chinese,” but sources indicate that it was established by Zhenfa Energy Group, a solar energy firm based in Chongqing.

The approval comes as there is growing scrutiny of the expanding Chinese presence in Australia.  Ever-increasing acquisitions of Sydney real estate by Chinese investors is distorting prices, while acrimony erupted in June regarding the establishment of a pro-China research center at the University of Technology Sydney.  Other deals in the power sector have likewise stimulated national debate on the strategic dimensions of Chinese investment.