Solar Flagships’ Solar Dawn Consortium re-states its case to Queensland Government

Queensland’s proposed Solar Dawn concentrating solar power plant has vowed to carry on despite the newly elected Liberal-National government’s vows to withdraw funding from the project. Under the previous Labour regime, the Queensland government had promised to put forth $75m in funding for the project in order to enable it to meet funding requirements to procure funding through the Federal Government’s Solar Flagships program.

The Queensland LNP government will withdraw funding from Solar Dawn project as part of an election campaign promise to eliminate State government climate change initiatives that were deemed ‘redundant’ in the light of the introduction of a Federal tax on carbon. The one renewable energy initiative that will go untouched is Queensland’s Solar Feed-in Tariff, which is seen as cost-effective and important for the future of the state’s solar power industry.

The Solar Dawn Consortium has said that it will move forward with plans to construct the 250 megawatt (MW) facility in Chinchilla despite the government pull-out. The Consortium will have to find a way to make up the $75m funding gap, which may undermine its status as an initially successful applicant under the Solar Flagships program. Under Solar Flagships rules, projects must prove that they have managed to secure 2/3 of the funding for the project from non-Federal government sources in order to be eligible for the Federal government contribution.

According to an independent socio-economic study conducted by AECgroup, the Solar Dawn project offers significant potential economic, social, and environmental benefits to the state. Among these are job creation and contributions to the Queensland economy–including $1.5b of direct investment and indirect economic activity, plus $560m in gross value-added activity and $338m in wages and salaries over 3 years.

The estimates in the AECgroup report don’t account for the possibility of development of further solar projects in the region thanks to the creation of facilities for Solar Dawn. “These are expenditure estimates only, including engineering, procurement, and construction,” Said Solar Dawn Project Director Anthony Wiseman about AECgroup’s estimates of Solar Dawn’s contribution to Queensland’s economic activity. “So they’re not the full project development spend and they don’t account for a possible ‘solar cluster’ developing in the Western Downs region, which would bring even greater advantages.”

The other Solar Flagships ‘winner’, NSW’s proposed Moree Solar Farm, has also run into problems with obtaining funding. At present, the future of the Moree project is up in the air, having been thrown back into the running against the competitors it had initially bested. Whether the reason be bureaucratic hurdles or an unstable government policy environment, the turmoil and constant delays and holdups of both projects have done little to instill confidence in investors that Australia is a safe place for commercial solar power. Similarly, the problems create the image that commercial-scale solar power is something that is difficult and new, when large-scale solar technologies are already in operation in other parts of the world such as Spain and the US.

There have been numerous instances of Australia failing to take advantage of its renewable energy potential and the potential of its own clean energy innovators; many cases of which were pointed out in a recent article by Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) Chief Executive John Grimes in an article in RenewEconomy.

Top image via Solar Dawn.

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

James Martin II