Has the start of construction of utility scale solar at Nyngan proved ARENA’s worth?

utility scale solar

Coming soon to a field in Nyngan.

The start of construction of Australia’s largest utility scale solar project has demonstrated that the country is serious about large-scale solar. However it throws up an uncomfortable truth in the halls of power in Canberra and the cabinet rooms of their state counterparts.

News that construction had started on the country’s largest utility scale solar power project at Nyngan, in country NSW was a breakthrough not just for the local community, but for the country’s solar power sector. The US-based First Solar, which is one of the world’s leaders in supplying thin film solar panels, began the building of the mammoth (for Australia) solar power plant in January.

The plant, which will weigh in at 102MW, is enough to power 33,000 average NSW homes, according to a Jan 27 First Solar press release.

The solar plant is described as a “milestone” by Jack Curtis, First Solar’s Vice President of Business Development for the Asia Pacific. Mr Curtis appears to be warranted on this occasion in using this well-worn phrase.

“Breaking ground at the Nyngan solar project is a significant milestone for the advancement of Australia’s utility scale solar industry,” he said.

Curtis added the important point that a fully-functioning Nyngan project will “strengthen the the solar industry’s position within Australia’s energy mix”.

Here’s the question though readers, in these days of austerity, propaganda wars and savage cuts to renewable energy, both the Nyngan solar project and a similar planned project at Broken Hill got their start with the aid of government money, both from the feds and NSW. This is a fact recognised by First Solar.

That’s right, the now out-of-fashion Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) contributed to the set up of the venture kicking in taxpayers dosh and providing that certainty that solar investors crave.

The point is though, the role ARENA played appeared to be vital and, more importantly, seems to have worked.

And secondly, ARENA are confident that they will get a return on their money that is higher than the return on government bonds. In other words, they will return a profit to the tax payer.

These are truths that must hurt in Canberra and Macquarie Street; to have government money doing its job and paving the way for private investment to build our utility scale solar energy sector. This is the sector that Abbott seems desperate to tear down.

One wonders what thoughts spin through the minds of those pollies who are intent on dismantling all progress (and profits) made in the clean energy sector. Will any of them have the temerity to attend the opening?

If any of them attend I’ll eat my hat on Youtube. If Abbott attends I’ll do it naked.

Comments

  1. Ron Percival says

    “…………. ARENA are confident that they will get a return on their money that is higher than the return on government bonds…………”

    This is hardly an adequate criteria for approval. A benefit-cost study with an healthy margin above 1:1 would be an alternative, or in interest rate terms what is the best rate of return that can be generated with the use of such capital funds as an investment. Surely there are returns available better than 4 or 5% Given the risks that the project will be out dated quickly, or the that the technology will be dominated by better technologies within a few years, it is no wonder that “First Solar” was not putting up their own money.

  2. It is so good to hear of this sort of innovative and visionary projects going ahead despite the abject failure of the Abbott government and their protectionism of the fossil fuel industries. Well done all of you – a shining light in a presently dim and bleak Australian landscape.

  3. Yes Minister says

    Good to see, hopefully the folk behind it manage to get a return after the politicians and power company grubs do their utmost to render it unviable.

  4. Thanks for your comments folks and for adding to the conversation. I do think though Ron that the prime role for ARENA was to commit government money in order to create a degree of certainty in the marketplace to attract private investors. In this case at least it appears to have been very successful. However the point you make is interesting and worthy of further discussion I think.

  5. Ron Percival says

    “…….to commit government money in order to create a degree of certainty in the marketplace…..” is curiously topical in the light of the imminent demise of the car industry. Government money only attracted more mendicants seeking government money.

  6. Perhaps the predictability of costs and returns on a solar field are attractive to investors..

    • Yes Minister says

      Maybe the economic work in some states albeit not in Queensland where the incumbent dictatorship is hell-bent on flogging everything not bolted down & consequently anything that detracts from the profitability of government owner corporations must be squashed.

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