Up to 10 new solar farms destined for Australia

As many as 10, and at least four, large-scale solar farms will be built across Australia thanks to $350 million in grants and funding announced on Wednesday by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The move, which is designed to bring down the costs of large-scale solar, has been described as “transformative” for the deployment of large-scale solar PV in Australia.

ARENA will contribute $100 million dollars as part of a large-scale solar competitive round, with grants of up to $30 million grants available to major solar PV project proponents. Projects must have a minimum generation capacity of five megawatts, with the goal of supporting the development of a further 200MW of capacity in the Australian market.

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said the ARENA funding’s main aim was to bring down the cost of large-scale solar, and achieve cost parity with wind 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,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The funding round is about unlocking that capability to deploy large-scale solar farms across the nation. This will drive further innovation in the sector and create efficiencies in Australia’s solar PV supply chains.”

The CEFC has in tandem announced a complementary $250 million large-scale solar financing program, which will support projects with loans of over $15 million.

CEFC chief executive Oliver Yates said the move was “transformative for the deployment of large-scale solar in Australia”.

“When fully deployed, the CEFC finance will be the single largest debt financing commitment to the Australian large-scale solar sector,” he said.

“By working closely with ARENA, and investing alongside private sector co-investors to bridge the financing gap for projects that make commercial sense, we’re seeking to build Australia’s expertise in solar and bring down development costs.”

The news was welcomed by the Clean Energy Council.

CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said the two bodies, which have been targeted for axing by the Abbott government, were playing leading roles in a clean energy transformation.

“Australia has some of the best sunshine in the world, and producing much more of our electricity from solar power makes a lot of sense to a nation of sun worshippers,” Mr Thornton said.

“The ARENA and CEFC initiatives will take us a step closer to giving people what they resoundingly say they want – cheap, clean energy.”

He said analysis released several years ago by the federal government showed wind and solar would be among the cheapest of energy sources in a decade, “and it is initiatives like the ones announced today that will help them get there”.

This story was republished with permission from The Fifth Estate and originally published here.

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