Australian solar auction heats up

Canberra has received 77 expressions of interest for its A$100m large-scale solar funding initiative.

Developers of Australian solar projects with a combined capacity of 2.8 gigawatts have filed expressions of interest (EOIs) to the grants and loans provided by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

ARENA’s chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said that its A$100 million (€67 million; $72 million) large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) competitive round had received 77 eligible EOIs, a number of which had also approached the CEFC for debt funding through its complementary A$250 million large-scale solar financing programme.

The EOIs are seeking about A$1.1 billion in ARENA funding for projects in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, totalling more than A$5.5 billion, according to the government agency.

“The level of interest in the ARENA large-scale solar PV competitive round exceeded our expectations,” commented Frischknecht.

The funding initiatives, announced in September, are designed to bring down costs through the deployment of large-scale solar PV.

ARENA’s A$100 million programme will provide major solar PV project proponents with grants of up to A$30 million. The projects are required to have a minimum generation capacity of 5MW.

To unlock additional private sector investment in the large-scale solar sector, CEFC’s complementary A$250 million financing program will support ARENA grant recipients with loan requirements of A$15 million or more.

The agency anticipates that there will be four to 10 projects to be funded through this competitive funding round.

Greg Hunt, Australia’s Minister of the Environment, said the round was set to almost double Australia’s large-scale capacity from 240 megawatts (MW) to around 440MW.

An ARENA spokesperson declined to provide further information on project backgrounds but said they are in the process of assessing EOIs. The agency expect to select and invite the best submissions to proceed to the full application stage by 16 December 2015.

The due date for full applications is 15 June next year.