Large-scale solar photovoltaics – competitive round

ARENA is playing a vital role providing bridge funding for projects that will make large-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) more competitive by increasing confidence and building supply chains.

In line with ARENA’s investment priorities and part of the Advancing Renewables Program (ARP), this competitive funding round aimed to support further cost reduction in large-scale solar PV.

Map of Australia with locations of the proposed new solar farms marked

This competitive process has encouraged a significant drop in grant funding over the last three years. In 2014, the grant funding needed for large-scale solar projects was $1.60 per watt.

In 2015, this dropped to 43 cents per watt at the expression of interest (EOI) stage of this funding round; and to an average of 28 cents per watt in June 2016, when full applications were submitted.

By September 2016, the average requirement of the successful applicants at September 2016 is an incredible 19 cents per watt. Additionally, total project costs have been reduced by around 40%.

When this funding round was announced in September 2015 it was expected that the $100 million in grant funding would enable around 200 MW of new projects. Through the round this has more than doubled, with the $92 million funding announced supporting around 480 MW in total.

This growth in the local large-scale solar PV sector continues to provide a significant boost for Australia’s regional economy, the massive renewable infrastructure build estimated to create upwards of 2,300 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs.

Successful applicants

The amount of third party investment leveraged for each government dollar has risen dramatically, from 80 cents to about $10 for each dollar the public invests through ARENA. This will turn ARENA’s $92 million investment into a $1 billion investment in renewable infrastructure.

ARENA has worked closely with industry, State Governments and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, in developing this funding round.

Once complete, the new solar farms will triple the amount of energy produced from big solar in Australia, powering 150,000 average Australian homes and meeting 10% of the capacity build needed to meet the 2020 RET (renewable energy target).

Applicant Project name Size
ARENA funding Total project cost Nearest town
Origin Energy Darling Downs Solar Farm 110.0 $20 m $216.7 m Dalby, QLD
Edify Energy with Solar Choice Whitsunday Solar Farm 58.1 $9.5 m $122.4 m Collinsville, QLD
Neoen Australia Parkes Solar Farm 50.6 $7.5 m $107.9 m Parkes, NSW
Genex Power Kidston Solar Farm 50.0 $8.9 m $126.2 m Kidston, QLD
Manildra Solar Farm Manildra Solar Farm 42.5 $10.9 m $109.3 m Manildra, NSW
RATCH Australia Corporation Collinsville Solar Power Station 42.0 $9.5 m $95.9 m Collinsville, QLD
Neoen Australia Griffith Solar Farm 25.0 $5.0 m $54.6 m Griffith, NSW
Canadian Solar (Australia) Oakey Solar Farm 25.0 $2.2 m $47.5 m Oakey, QLD
Neoen Australia Dubbo Solar Farm 24.2 $5.5 m $55.6 m Dubbo, NSW
APT Pipeline (APA Group) Emu Downs Solar Farm 20.0 $5.5 m $47.2 m Cervantes, WA
Goldwind Australia White Rock Solar Farm 20.0 $6.0 m $44.5 m Glen Innes, NSW
Canadian Solar (Australia) Longreach Solar Farm 15.0 $1.3 m $28.7 m Longreach, QLD
TOTAL   482.0 $91.7 m $1,056.4 m

Scope of activity

The large-scale solar competitive round will support activities that fit within the following parameters:

  • projects must generate all their electricity from solar PV
  • projects must be able to demonstrate a levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) of below $135/MWh (calculated in accordance with the ARENA LCOE calculator (XLS 298KB))
  • projects must meet or exceed the minimum project size of 5 MW (AC)
  • total grant funding requested for a project must not exceed $30 million
  • projects must be connected to the National Electricity Market (NEM) or the South West Interconnected System (SWIS)
  • projects must not involve behind the meter elements.

Industry context

Large-scale solar PV (defined as greater than 5MW) remains in its infancy in Australia with only 4 projects commissioned and a further 4 under construction.

When the projects currently under construction are complete, installed capacity of large-scale PV will total 262 MW. This is well behind the installed capacity of comparable international markets.

ARENA has observed significant cost reduction in large-scale solar PV over the past few years and expects this to continue due to a combination of international and local improvements.

The cost trajectory of large-scale solar PV is expected to see the technology become competitive without additional support within the medium term.

The competitive round is expected to be critical in supporting this outcome by helping to close the current cost gap that exists between large-scale solar PV and other commercially competitive forms of power generation, including wind energy.

More information

Guidance documents

Media releases