New funding for Australian solar projects

As many as 10 new large-scale solar farms could be built across the country with the support of A$350m worth of new funding initiatives.

Two Australian government agencies, Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), have announced new funding initiatives to support the development of solar power generation in Australia.

ARENA launched its large-scale solar competitive round, which is a A$100 million (€63.4 million; $71.7 million) programme seeking bids from major solar PV project proponents for grants of up to A$30 million. The projects are required to have a minimum generation capacity of 5 megawatts (MW).

At the same time, CEFC's complementary A$250 million large-scale solar financing programme will support projects with loan requirements of A$15 million or more. It is targeted at unlocking additional private sector investment in the large-scale solar sector.

The new CEFC initiative will provide successful ARENA grant recipients with the opportunity to secure long-term debt finance to support their projects.

ARENA anticipates that there will be four to 10 projects to be funded through this competitive funding round, with an aim to support the development of a further 200MW of additional large-scale solar capacity in Australia. 

ARENA’s chief executive officer (CEO) Ivor Frischknecht said the competitive ARENA funding round was looking to support a spread of projects, with the central objective of bringing down the cost of large-scale solar developments in Australia and achieving cost parity between large-scale solar and wind energy by 2020.

“Australia has huge natural advantages in this area: more sun than almost anywhere else and a solar R&D sector that is the envy of the world,” commented Frischknecht.

“While the costs of large-scale solar PV are decreasing, this financing boost will help Australian projects move down the cost curve, in line with international trends,” added Oliver Yates, CEO of the CEFC.

“When fully deployed, the CEFC finance will be the single largest debt financing commitment to the Australian large-scale solar sector. The CEFC’s provision of fixed-rate longer-dated senior debt finance is designed to directly support the network of financiers, project suppliers and developers in the delivery of additional large-scale solar in Australia.”

ARENA and the CEFC have supported a number of such projects, which are either already generating power or for which first-generation is imminent.

Examples are AGL's 155MW project at Broken Hill and Nyngan, the 56MW Moree solar farm, as well as the country's largest solar and battery storage project to date – the Sandfire Resources' DeGrussa copper mine in Western Australia.

In addition, the CEFC has committed over A$1.4 billion in finance to investments in clean energy projects valued at over A$3.5 billion since its inception in 2012.

Applications for funding for large-scale solar projects from ARENA and finance from the CEFC are now open and the registration deadline for Expression of Interest (EOI) is by October 13, 2015.