Australia shortlists 22 projects for solar funding

The selected applications are asking for about A$332m to support projects totalling A$1.68bn.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has shortlisted 22 projects out of 77 eligible expressions of interest (EOIs) to proceed to the next round of its A$100 million (€63 million; $69 million) large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) competitive round. 

Located in all mainland states, the projects have a total capacity of 766 megawatts (MW). Each was able to demonstrate it could generate power at a cost of below A$135 per megawatt-hour (MWh). 

The 22 applications are asking for about A$332 million in funding to support projects totalling A$1.68 billion. The agency anticipates that four to 10 projects will end up being offered funding when the round completes. 

The largest project among all is the 106.8MW Darling Downs Solar Farm. It is being proposed by Origin Energy, an Australian power company with 6 gigawatts of capacity owned and contracted. The smallest one is the 10MW Ebenezer Solar Project, which is sponsored by juwi Renewable Energy. 

The Australian subsidiary of French renewable energy company Neoen has three projects with a combined capacity of 94.8MW on the list. Other shortlisted developers include Infigen Energy, Canadian Solar, RATCH and APA Group. 

Ivor Frischknecht, ARENA’s chief executive officer said the EOI phase had attracted strong interest and several new entrants to the market. 

The A$100 million competitive round, announced in September 2015, is designed to bring down costs through the deployment of 200MW of large-scale solar PV.

“Australia has some work to do to catch up to countries with more mature large-scale solar industries – our grid-connected large-scale solar capacity will shortly reach 240MW and is generated by a only a handful of solar plants,” Frischknecht said.

“Through this competitive round, ARENA’s support will ensure a series of large-scale solar projects get off the ground and will help move large-scale solar costs in Australia further down the cost curve, potentially to less than $100 per MWh by 2020.”

A number of the shortlisted projects are also seeking project finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) under its A$250 million large-scale solar programme. It is expected to support ARENA grant recipients with loan requirement of A$15 million or more.