ARENA reveals 20 final applicants for utility scale program, capacity set to grow


The Australian PV power plant market segment is set to receive a significant boost in 2017. Solar's falling costs will in all likelihood result in ARENA's utility scale PV grant program funding more projects or increased PV capacity than initially expected.

Of the 22 projects shortlisted by ARENA, 20 have submitted final applications, with the amount of grant funding requested per watt-peak falling sharply. This reduction in required subsidy will result in the AU$100 million ARENA had earmarked for the program stretching across more projects, meaning more MWs of large scale PV installed.

The 20 projects that have submitted final applications are worth 757 MW of capacity. Together the project developers have applied for AU$211 ($159 million) in grant funding. Initial estimates put the ARENA program's likely MW outcome at around 250 MW, but given the fall in grant requests per watt-peak, it now appears around 350 MW of projects will be successful.

ARENA figures show that in the initial phase of the utility scale program, opened in 2014, applicants requested an average subsidy of AU$1.60/Wp, which fell to AU$0.43/Wp in 2014 when expression-of-interests were sought, decreasing further to AU$0.28/Wp when applications closed last month.

Utility Origin Energy has submitted an application for the largest project under the ARENA program, with its 106.8 MW Darling Downs Solar Farm, to be located in the state of Queensland. Five projects of around 50 MW have submitted final applications, in Victoria and Queensland, with seven parks coming in between 25 MW and 50 MW in capacity. The remaining seven applications are for PV power plants ranging from 12.2 MW to 22.4 MW.

Regarding project developers, France's Neoen submitted the largest number of final applications, with three parks worth 94.8 MW in total. Neoen is followed by utility Infigen, with two projects worth 81.9 MW combined, and Canadian Solar with two parks that together come in at 40 MW in capacity.

Another notable final applicant is Chinese wind developer Goldwind, which hopes to step into the Australian utility scale PV market, with its 20 MW White Rock proposed development.

ARENA is currently evaluating the applications, with successful projects to be announced in September. ARENA says that the aim of the program is to reduce the soft costs of installing utility scale PV in Australia. Winning projects will receive additional public support in the form of debt financing from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation under its complimentary AU$250 million large scale solar initiative.

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