ARENA will move to fund Aussie utility-scale solar to bring Aus up to speed with rest of world

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has flagged a new round of big solar funding, in an effort to bridge the cost-gap between large-scale solar projects in Australia and the US, and other countries.

ARENA chairman Greg Bourne suggested on Monday that the funding round would be included in the Agency’s next general funding strategy, to be released soon.

The initiative is likely to be welcomed by the Abbott government, which is keen to push large-scale solar as hard as it can, to ensure it displaces out-of-favour wind generation in the Renewable Energy Target.

The Abbot government, whose senior ministers have described wind turbines as ugly, inefficient and possibly harmful, is asking the Clean Energy Finance Corp to also direct finance to large-scale solar projects.

Bourne noted that the current cost of large-scale solar PV projects in Australia is probably around $A140-$A170 a megawatt-hour.

This compares to just $US40/MWh in the US, equivalent to just over $US50/MWh after a tax credit, and tariffs of under $US60/MWh in the Gulf Region and Middle East.

Bourne says the difference comes down to the cost of finance, and to the “nuts and bolts” and the solar supply chain in Australia.

He said Australian banks were “very timid” when it came to large-scale solar, mostly because so little had been built in the country.

Top image: Mockup of Solar Choice’s 2GW Bulli Creek Solar Farm.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson