A year ago it was predicted that utility-scale solar would displace wind energy projects and seize a sizeable portion of the estimated 7,000MW to 8,000MW to be built to meet the Renewable Energy Target. Six months ago, despite the sharp fall in the price of solar PV modules, the forecast deployment of solar was cut in half. Now, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it will be reduced to near zero.
Seb Henbest, the Australia manager for BNEF, said wind energy would likely resist the encroachment of large-scale solar PV because its costs were also falling, helped by an oversupply of wind turbines, and the strong Australian dollar.
“The cost of solar is coming down, but we don’t see the cost curve between wind and solar intersecting this side of 2020,” Henbest told the Clean Energy Week 2012 conference. “Six months ago we had solar intersecting,” he said. But they now expect little solar PV to be built beyond the flagships project and other government-sponsored schemes. “It’s a contest between wind and large-scale PV …and wind energy is looking pretty good.”
Henbest’s predictions go against the expectations of the solar industry, which still believes that it will begin to match wind on costs within a few years. Two of the biggest wind developers in Australia, Pacific Hydro and Infigen Energy, are taking a very active look at solar projects, and Investec is also looking to build projects in Western Australia, without additional subsidies, within a few years.
Meanwhile, AGL Energy managing director Michael Fraser said the company had recently been tendering for renewable energy projects and had received many applications. However, he said that decisions would likely be put on hold until the outcome of the RET review became clear.
Interestingly, Fraser conceded that the 159MW solar PV project that will be built at Broken Hill and Nyngan – after AGL won funding from the re-tendered Solar Flagships scheme – could be built before its current due date of 2015, but would be scheduled to fit in with AGL Energy’s needs for renewable energy certicates (as RenewEconomy had observed a few weeks back).
He confirmed that the start date of the first stage of the Silverton wind farm (expected to be around 250MW) would be delayed, but that the two projects would largely be built in tandem, and offered excellent synergies.