First Solar Aussie future in doubt

US thin-film PV giant First Solar said up to A$110m ($103m) of future projects in Australia are in doubt because of policy uncertainty in the country.

First Solar is building two utility-scale solar plants in the Australian state of New South Wales with utility AGL, including the 102MW Nyngan facility, which will be the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere when it is finished by mid-2015.

But First Solar vice president for business development Jack Curtis told Recharge that the future beyond those developments is unclear, because of factors such as a review of the country’s ambitious Renewable Energy Target (RET).

“The current uncertainty in the Australian renewable energy policy landscape has caused a number of current renewable developments to be put on hold, in addition to potentially creating a question mark on future developments,” Curtis said.

“The $110m number relates to solar projects that First Solar is aware of,” he added.

Curtis’s comments are an abrupt reverse from First Solar’s position of mid-2012, when the company’s CEO identified Australia as a utility-scale PV market ripe for “take off”.

Last month a panel to review Australia’s RET was announced that will report to the country’s government by the middle of the year.

Currently the RET mandates that 20% of Australia’s power should come from renewables by 2020, with a 41TWh annual generation goal from large scale renewable sources, but critics within the ruling Coalition government want to see the target watered down or even scrapped.

The uncertainty has also led to warnings from the wind sector that development is being hampered.