Large-scale solar set to boom under programs from ARENA, CEFC, Ergon & QLD government

Interest in large-scale solar projects in Australia looks to be booming, as programs by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Ergon Energy and the Queensland government are inundated with proposals.

As part of a major push into big solar projects, ARENA is making available $100 million in grants, CEFC is offering up to $250 million in finance, while Ergon and the Queensland government have separate tenders in progress.

RenewEconomy understands that several new international players have been drawn to the Australian market, reversing a trend that saw some pack up and leave under the policies of the federal government under the leadership of Tony Abbott.

There have been several gigawatts in capacity proposed for the tenders, which is not surprising given that the call for expressions of interest by the ACT government for 50MW of “next generation” solar with storage drew nearly 1GW of proposals.

In Queensland, alone, there are more than 2.5GW of large-scale solar projects with local council approval, merely waiting for contracts with local utilities, or financing to enter the merchant market.

RenewEconomy has been told that nearly all of the proposals for the ARENA/CEFC tender are for fixed tilt, solar PV projects, with Queensland accounting for most interest, closely followed by NSW and Western Australia.

The Solar 60 program – the 60MW of capacity to be auctioned by the Queensland government under its attempts to kick-start the large-scale solar industry in the state – has also attracted strong interest because of the 20-year power purchase agreements on offer.

Ergon Energy, meanwhile, has also closed its offer of 150MW of large-scale renewables, and is sorting through the applications. It expects to whittle down a short list soon, with the intention of entering into contracts before the end of the year or in early 2016.

The ARENA projects are unlikely to be contracted until towards the end of 2016, according to its documentation. Spokespeople for ARENA and CEFC were not able to comment.

Top image: Mockup of Solar Choice’s Bulli Creek Solar Farm outside of Toowoomba, Qld

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson