India energy group Adani has identified 650MW of large-scale solar projects in Australia it wants to develop as it seeks to become one of the biggest renewable energy developers in the country, even though it insists it still wants to push ahead with the controversial Carmichael mega coal mine.
Adani, as RenewEconomy revealed last year, has been scouting around for solar projects for nearly 12 months, and earlier this year confirmed it was looking for solar projects in both Queensland and South Australia.
In a presentation at a mining conference last week, Adani identified for the first time the first four projects in its emerging portfolio – with two solar projects totaling 250MW in Queensland and two totaling 400MW in South Australia.
Jeyakumar Janakaraj, Adani’s Australia head, told the conference the solar opportunities in Australia were enormous because it had the highest solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world, and more than 2 million Australian households already had solar hot water systems or rooftop solar PV.
The development of large-scale solar is in its early stages of development, but Adani saw opportunities in the push to reach the large-scale renewable energy target of 33,000GWh by 2020.
Janakaraj said the company aimed to become a “leading generator of renewable power in Australia” and intended to own, operate and maintain the power plants, “lead the solar cost curve without the need for government subsidies and grants”, and become a major participant in renewable energy certificate trading schemes.
He said the company would leverage its experience in India, where it has a much more ambitious target to build 10GW of solar by 2022, as part of that country’s target of building 100GW of solar by the same time.
These projects include the creation of huge solar parks in solar rich states such as Rajasthan and Gujarat, and the construction of the largest individual solar plant – a 648MW solar facility in Tamil Nadu.
RenewEconomy asked Adani for more information about the Australian projects, and at what stage of development they were at, and of possible timelines.
A spokesman replied by email: “Coupled with the company’s several billion dollars of investment to date across its mine, rail and port projects in Queensland, Adani’s plans to pursue solar investment opportunities reflect the confidence the company has in the Australian market.
“This reflects both Adani’s commitment as a diversified energy and infrastructure company in India and a leading solar generator in that market, and the company’s plans to build a long-term future with Australia.
“Adani will update the market on progress of these opportunities as and when they develop further.”
However, Tim Buckley, from the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, sees the move as a “strategic pivot” by Adani Australia, away from their stranded coal mine proposal in the Galilee, and towards solar.
“Adani Enterprises is today the leading investor in solar project construction and solar module manufacturing in India… and Adani Australia’s pivot into solar is a clear and logical strategic move,” Buckley said.
“Financing a series of one year, A$150-200m solar projects in Australia is a commercially bankable proposition. Financing a A$10 billion decade long project to build a thermal coal mine the world doesn’t need is clearly impossible.”
“The cost of solar is dropping by more than 10 per cent annually, the rate of technology remains staggering. The world has moved on. Why build yesterday’s technology?
“Even (energy consultants) Wood McKenzie is now forecasting that in a carbon constrained world, the global thermal coal export market peaked in 2014 and will halve by 2035,” Buckley said.