Solar project fails to attract private financing

The Federal Government recently re-opened bidding on a $306 million grant under the Solar Flagship scheme.

The Moree Solar Farm, a 150MW photovoltaic panel farm in northern NSW, must now be re-tendered because the proponents failed to attract matching private investment.

The project was jointly backed by Pacific Hydro and Spanish firm Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, but failed to meet the conditions for government funding and has substantially changed its project.

The technology for the project was to be supplied by BP Solar, but the company recently announced it was getting out of solar globally.

Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said the government would seek updated applications from four shortlisted round-one groups under the Solar Flagship photovoltaic (PV) program.

Moree Solar Farm and three other shortlisted projects from AGL, Infigen-Suntech and TRUenergy have been asked to submit revised applications to the Solar Flagships Council.

“The government is committed to the deployment of large-scale renewable energy technologies in Australia,” Mr Ferguson said.

“However, we must also ensure that taxpayer money is spent prudently.”

Australia’s peak body for renewable energy, the Clean Energy Council, said the Solar Flagships announcement was an important restatement of its commitment to the development of large-scale solar.

“Solar Flagships is a critical first step in demonstrating the potential of large-scale solar in Australia, and breaking through the range of challenges that face any new renewable energy technology,” Clean Energy Council acting chief executive Kane Thornton said.

“This experience will ensure a pipeline of large scale solar projects can be developed faster and at lower cost,” she said.

Work on a 250MW solar thermal power plant to be built near Chinchilla in south-west Queensland is still underway.

The Solar Dawn Consortium continues to advance the development and commercial closure of its proposed power plant after being granted a time extension by the Commonwealth Government.

Project director Anthony Wiseman said the consortium, which includes AREVA Solar and Wind Prospect CWP, welcomed the extension as a confirmation of the progress being made on the proposed solar thermal plant.

“Like all major infrastructure projects, finalising the design, approvals, financial and commercial aspects takes time, and we appreciate the continued support of the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments,” Mr Wiseman said.

“Recently we signed a conditional agreement with the Queensland Government for $75 million in project assistance and received Development Approval from Western Downs Regional Council for the construction of the solar thermal plant,” he said.