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ARENA drops solar projects

12th Nov 2012

The federal government's $1.5 billion Solar Flagships program is now the $1 billion Solar Flagships program after funding for two projects was pulled by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

ARENA (as it is otherwise known) revealed that it will not be backing either the Solar Dawn consortium's bid for a 250 MW solar thermal plant in Queensland or EnergyAustralia's proposal for a solar facility in Victoria.

Solar Dawn's scheme would have resulted in Australia's first standalone solar thermal structure, which would have also been the country's biggest solar project overall.

However, ARENA said: "After exploring several options to address current market conditions, ARENA is no longer pursuing development of the 250 MW Solar Dawn solar thermal project in Queensland."

A similar statement was made by Solar Dawn, with the consortium complaining of a difficult trading environment as the main reason for failing to carry on with the idea.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom, as Solar Dawn spokesman Anthony Wiseman predicted the group would be working with ARENA on future developments somewhere down the line.

He remarked: "With ARENA soon to embark on a range of new initiatives, we look forward to sharing our experience and working with ARENA to help build Australia's clean energy future."

As for EnergyAustralia's project, that was deemed too similar to an approved bid for a plant being developed by AGL-First Solar.

In fact, the AGL-First Solar thin-film PV solar project is the only initiative to be granted funding by the Flagships program so far.

The fact that EnergyAustralia's idea was so similar to AGL-First Solar's was originally considered a benefit, Climate Spectator reports, but these hopes were quickly dashed with the ARENA announcement.

So what exactly is ARENA going to be funding? Well, it still has decisions to make on two other candidates - Moree Solar Farm and Infigen-Suntech applications are currently under review.

But despite this, the department now has an additional $500 million in allocated funding, which adds to the $1.7 billion it already possessed for future projects.

News that it would not be supporting the EnergyAustralia and Solar Dawn projects came while it unveiled a new renewable energy strategy to bring sustainable technology to more remote and regional locations.

The organisation claimed it was hoping to target areas where costs are high and consumption is expected to rise.

ARENA also confirmed it would be continuing to run the Australian Solar Institute's successful PhD scholarship and post-doctorate fellowship program.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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