Go for 155MW Aussie PV 'flagship'

Australian utility AGL Energy and US thin-film giant First Solar will build 155MW of PV in New South Wales after finally nailing down state and federal funding for the two projects.

The 102MW Nyngan plant and 53MW Broken Hill facility can proceed after securing A$166.7m ($150.6m) from Australia’s renewables support agency Arena and A$64.9m from the New South Wales government, towards a total project cost of about A$450m.

The two represent Australia's biggest solar project to date.

Construction of Nyngan is expected to commence in January 2014, with completion scheduled by mid-2015. Building at Broken Hill will start in July 2014 and is due to be completed around November 2015.

First Solar will provide EPC and modules for both projects, plus five years of operation and maintenance services.

Jack Curtis, First Solar's vice president of business development for Asia Pacific, said the two "are of major significance for regional New South Wales and the Australian energy sector.

“These projects will play an important part in the growing acceptance of utility-scale solar PV, and we applaud the Commonwealth Government and the NSW Government for their vision and commitment to the sector."

The two plants are likely to be among the few fruits of Australia’s Solar Flagships initiative – a largely ill-fated attempt to back large-scale solar projects launched in 2009.

Several high-profile projects earmarked for support under the scheme fell by the wayside after failing to secure private finance or power-purchase agreements.

They included the 250MW Solar Dawn solar-thermal initiative, which was effectively killed off by Arena late last year.