Australia is set to make some major investments in the solar sector. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will decide, within the next six months, whether it will invest all or some of its government funds of A$2.2 billion ($2.3 billion) into two solar projects.
The two plants include a proposed new South Whales plant by Pacific Hydro Pty and Fotowatio Renewable Ventures and one by Infigen Energy (ASX: IFN) and Suntech Power Holdings Co. (NYSE: STP) in the same state.
Previously, a solar/thermal project with Areva SA (EPA: AREVA) worth A$1 billion ($1.04 billion) broke down because funding was unavailable from the agency.
The board essentially declined the 250-MW Solar Dawn project because the government of Queensland retracted A$75 million in funding.
But other projects are being pushed forward as Australia moves toward generating 20 percent of all domestic power needs from renewable sources by 2020.
“Why hasn’t more solar happened?” Ivor Frischknecht, who started as chief executive officer of the renewable energy agency in August, said in a phone interview yesterday. “Large- scale solar today still needs a subsidy, and various subsidy programs haven’t been as successful as everybody would have hoped, but I think we’ve learned a lot from the past.”
For their 159-MW solar project in New South Wales, First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) and AGL Energy (ASX: AGK) won an A$129.7 million ($135.2 million) award in government funds over the summer.
And Silex Systems, which is developing a solar facility in Victoria, said in 2011 that it would receive A$75 million ($78.1 million).
Australia is certainly going ahead with developing a substantial solar sector.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in October that Australia presently has 1,936 MW in PV solar projects but a mere 19 MW in the form of large-scale facilities.
Germany and Italy had installed in excess of 7,000 MW in 2011—and that’s reflected in the fact that they are now the world’s largest markets for solar tech.