The Australian Renewable Energy Agency confirmed on Tuesday that it has been swamped with proposals for large-scale solar projects, and said it received 77 “eligible” expressions of interest (EOIs) for its $100 million large-scale solar PV funding round.
The agency says the eligible proposals represent 2,800MW (2.8GW) of potential projects, although the funding round is only expected to help bring 200MW of those projects into reality.
As RenewEconomy reported earlier this month, ARENA is believed to have received more than twice as many proposals, but whittled down the number after eliminating proposals it did not consider to be serious or competitive enough.
The response to ARENA follows an overwhelming number of applications for the 150MW of renewable energy capacity tendered by the Queensland government-owned Ergon Energy, which drew 2,000MW of proposals – most of them in solar technology, and the 976MW of proposals for the ACT government’s “next generation” solar tender.
The Queensland government is holding a separate tender of 60MW of large-scale solar, while the South Australian government is also tendering for around 150MW of renewable energy, including large-scale solar, to meet all its electricity needs.
The WA government-owned retailer, Synergy, also has a tender for around 150MW (500GWh) of large-scale renewables.
The private sector, however, continues to sit on its hands, despite the renewable energy target mandating 33,000GWh of large-scale renewable energy by 2020. Analysts say this will require 3,000MW of new capacity to be contracted within the next 12 months.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said interest in the round had exceeded the Agency’s expectations.
“It sends a strong signal the sector is serious about deploying large-scale solar and making the most of Australia’s enviable natural solar advantage,” Frischknecht said in a statement.
The projects are based in all mainland states, although RenewEconomy understands the greatest number are in Queensland and Western Australia.
“By all indications, the funding round is on track to significantly boost large-scale deployment across Australia, driving further innovation in the sector and creating efficiencies in Australia’s solar photovoltaic supply chains,” Frischknecht said.
The $100 million in grant funding from ARENA will likely be supported by $250 million of finance to be provided by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to help draw in the major banks to large-scale solar projects.
However, it will be nearly a year until ARENA decides which projects to support.
The Agency said it expects to select and invite highest merit applications to proceed to the full application stage by December 16, with the due date for applications on June 15, 2016. It says this will allow sufficient time to advance approvals, financing and other key contractual arrangements.
Ergon is due to make its decision within the next month.