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Solar Flagships deadline approaches

5th Dec 2011

The federal government is hopeful it will be able to achieve the deadline for the proposed Solar Flagships program, despite neither winning consortium securing finance.

According to the Climate Spectator, both the $1.2 billion Solar Dawn project - which proposes to build a 250 megawatt solar thermal facility in Queensland - and the $923 million 150 megawatt Moree Solar Project are having difficulty striking power purchase agreements.

Both projects were seeking an extension to the December 15 deadline from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

Government funding for the initiatives - two of the largest solar power stations in the world - was announced in June this year, with the Gillard government contributing $464 million to the Solar Dawn scheme and $306.5 million towards the project in Moree.

"Investment in clean energy projects such as these will continue to help make industrial-scale solar power more feasible, affordable and viable - which will benefit all Australians," prime minister and minister for resources and energy Julia Gillard said in a statement at the time (18 June).

"Putting a price on carbon will also help drive the investment we need in renewable and clean energy technologies such as solar."

Government predictions indicated that together the projects were expected to generate enough power to support the electricity needs of more than 115,000 Australian homes per year.

Construction was due to commence next year and the plants were expected to be completed and commissioned by the end of 2015 - however the delay in financing will likely see this timeline change.

These interruptions were somewhat anticipated when the former prime minister Kevin Rudd first announced in 2009 that he wanted to build two large-scale projects of this size - without first focusing on those of a smaller scale.

"The government's decision to put all its eggs into one basket has been lamented by the industry," Climate Spectator commentator Giles Parkinson wrote (December 2).

According to Mr Parkinson, round two of the Solar Flagships program could potentially not materialise due to the delays and budget constraints produced by the initial announcement.

The news for the NSW and Queensland projects comes as the Australian Capital Territory government is set to debate its proposed large-scale feed-in tariff this week.

If passed, the legislation could see several projects amounting to 40 megawatts built in coming years in the nation's capital.

Posted by Bob Dawson - News editor

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