ARENA rejects funding for Alinta's project for CSP plant in Port ...

Solar Dawn concentrating solar power (CSP) project in Australia

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has released a draft of its funding strategy to 2015, which states that it will consider funding unsuccessful projects under the nation’s Solar Flagships program and the 250 MW Solar Dawn concentrating solar power (CSP) project.

ARENA also proposed a new program for the support of CSP projects, continued support for solar energy research and development (R&D) and working to devise a new program to support solar photovoltaic (PV) project development. The agency holds USD 3.4 billion in funding, and each financial year it is required to develop a funding strategy for the next three years.

“In seeking to increase the deployment of renewable energy we must focus our efforts on overcoming the significant challenges in reducing the costs of renewable energy technologies, and ARENA will help achieve this,” said Australian Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson.

“By providing support to improve the competitiveness of renewables, ARENA will play a pivotal role in stimulating investment in Australian renewable energy researchers and businesses.”

The nine-page report did not provide much in the way of specifics on the proposed new PV and CSP support programs, except that the CSP program would support hybrid CSP/fossil fuel projects and would build on lessons learned under Solar Flagships Round 1.

ARENA also states that support for the Australian Solar Institute’s pre-commercial R&D technology program would build on prior achievements and could include a potential long-term strategic research initiative.

The 150 MW Moree Solar Farm was among those selected in the first round of the USD 1.6 billion Solar Flagships program. The project did not meet funding deadlines and suffered setbacks including the withdrawal of developer BP Solar (Madrid, Spain), and was denied government funding after a redesign.

The 250 MW Solar Dawn CSP project has experienced similar problems, with the government of Queensland withdrawing funding after developers Areva Solar (Paris, France) and Wind Prospect (Adelaide, Australia) failed to meet a funding deadline.

Other projects which could not receive funding through the ARENA budget include a PV project by consortium comprised of Infigen Energy Ltd. (Sydney, Australia) and Suntech Power Holdings Company Ltd. (Wuxi, China).

The government pre-selected this project for the first round of the Solar Flagships program, but instead awarded funding to 159 MW-AC of PV projects by First Solar Inc. (Tempe, Arizona, U.S.).

The consultation draft has been released to seek feedback from ARENA stakeholders on funding approaches. After this process, potential modifications and approval by the Minister for Resources and Energy, ARENA expects to finalize the strategy by the end of September 2012.