The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced the 12 projects that will receive their share of a $92 million grant – which may be the agency’s last round of funding in the face of severe budget cuts by the Turnbull government.
Six of the projects were won by Queensland, five by NSW and one by WA. While Origin Energy won the most sizeable sum with $20 million promised to its Darling Downs Solar Farm project, Neoen Australia won funding for the most projects, with ARENA promising $18 million all up for its Parkes, Griffith and Dubbo solar farms.
The funding was originally expected to support 200MW of large scale solar projects, however the low cost of solar (driven by a competitive tender process) means the projects will amass 480MW of solar power.
According to ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht, the funding is expected to result in almost $1 billion of commercial investment, benefitting regional Australian economies in the process.
“We have some of the best solar resources in the world and lead in rooftop solar,” said Frischknecht.
“But Australia has been lacking in large-scale solar deployment. That’s going to change over the next 12 months as a result of ARENA’s large scale solar deployment.
“We are going to see a massive renewable infrastructure build that will boost jobs and skills in regional Australia. Regional economies will benefit massively from the growing big solar industry, with 2300 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs expected to be created by this round.”
This may be ARENA’s last round of funding, with the Turnbull government hoping to end all grant funding from the agency and cut its budget by $1.3 billion. Opponents of the budget cuts say the decision could jeopardise hundreds of research positions at universities and delay Australia’s renewable energy deployment.
“ARENA is not just focused on building more solar. We want to bring down costs faster, fuel growth in Australia’s industry and give the next tranche of projects a head start,” according to Frischknecht.
“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.”