ARENA announces support for 12 new solar projects

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will support the construction of 12 new large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) plants as part of its multi-million dollar large-scale solar round.

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ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the funding would help triple the amount of energy produced from big solar and unlock almost $1 billion of commercial investment in regional Australian economies.

“ARENA is working to accelerate Australia’s shift to a sustainable, affordable and reliable energy future and our work supporting the development of Australia’s large-scale solar industry is central to this vision,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Six plants in Queensland, five plants in New South Wales and one plant in Western Australia are slated for funding, in a major milestone that’s expected to triple Australia’s large-scale solar capacity from 240 MW to 720 MW.”

The 12 project will provide enough energy to power 150,000 average Australian homes and deliver one tenth of the new capacity required to meet Australia’s 2020 renewable energy target.

“Regional economies will benefit massively from the growing big solar industry, with 2,300 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs expected to be created by this round. It is now up to successful companies to deliver these projects in line with ARENA’s requirements, which could see all plants built by the end of next year,” Mr Frischknecht added.

“This is an aggressive timetable to lock in financing, off take arrangements, connection agreements and required approvals. Several are seeking debt financing for projects through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s complementary large-scale solar program.”

Mr Frischknecht said ARENA has played a huge role in bringing down costs and accelerating the commerciality of large-scale solar in Australia since it was established in 2012.

“ARENA has carried out a multiyear plan to build capacity in Australian supply chains and expertise over successive large-scale solar projects,” he said.

“As a result of our efforts, the ARENA funding ask for big solar projects has dropped significantly from half of total project costs to just 10 per cent on average. This means that every dollar of ARENA funding is leveraging $10 from other sources in this round.

He said the agency has more than doubled its expectation of enabling around 200 MW of new projects through this round with the $92 million funding supporting around 480 MW in total.

“Australia’s big solar revolution is tantalisingly close and, as more home-grown businesses step up to provide construction, engineering and financial services, this newest tranche of ARENA-supported projects is well positioned to take the sector even closer to commerciality,” Mr Frischknecht concluded.

Some of the projects supported through ARENA’s multi-million dollar large-scale solar round include Origin Energy’s Darling Downs Solar Farm, Neoen Australia’s Parkes Solar Farm and Genex Power’s Kidston Solar Farm.