The ACT Government says it as received 49 proposals for large scale solar plants under its planned auction of 40MW of solar capacity, confirming the huge appetite for solar development in the country.
The number of applicants compares favourably to the 52 applications for the Solar Flagships project – both PV and solar thermal – in 2009, although that grants-based program was for very large scale projects of 150MW or more. The ACT tender, which will invite applicants to set their own tariff through a competitive auction, has attracted proposals from 2MW to 20MW.
Of the 49 proposals, the ACT government said 27 asked to be considered for the “fast-track” investment stream, which will allocate up to 20MW of capacity by mid-year to developers that can prove their bona-fides and their ability to construct and deliver on the project. The remaining capacity will likely be allocated early next year.
The auction is considered to be the most significant event for the emerging solar industry in Australia, with many aspiring participants suggesting that the tender process – which is now used widely in Europe, India, China, the US, South American and Africa – as being far more efficient than a grants-based program, which Australia has relied upon up till now.
Intriguingly, the release said there had been “different types of solar technologies” proposed. It had been thought that solar PV would be the only technology to be able to compete on cost, and it is not clear whether this refers to non PV technology, or a range of proposals that might include thin film vs silicon based PV, concentrated solar PV systems, or even different mounting or tracking systems.
There have also been a range of types of installations include large connected roof-mounted facilities on factories and other large buildings, and we also expect a significant number of proposals to involve ground-mounted or field-mounted facilities,” he said.
The territory’s minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell, said the interest had vindicated the government’s proposal, which is ultimately to offer up to 210MW of renewable energy capacity.
“This level of interest from the renewable energy industry is clear evidence that the ACT Labor Government’s plan to make Canberra Australia’s solar capital is working, and is absolutely achievable,” Corbell said in a statement.
“Solar has to be at the centre of any sustainable energy strategy in the ACT and it is the Labor Government that has a clear, legislated plan, to ensure that we move towards cleaner alternatives to power our city into the future.”
The government will now look to short-list those proposals that qualify for the “fast-track” component. These bids will be asked to update pricing offers by the middle of the year, before a final decision has been made. It is thought that the local utility ACTActew is making a proposal for a 20MW plant near Williamsdale in conjuction with First Solar, the world’s biggest PV manufacturer that has begun to install panels at a 10MW plant near Geraldton in Western Australia.