ACT advances solar ambitions

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will start an expression of interest (EOI) process by mid 2014 to identify potential sites and systems for a 50MW “solar technology innovation precinct”.

The focus of the initiative will be to attract external sources of research and development funding, and to build strong partnerships with local research institutions and businesses, said an ACT statement.

The results will be used to inform the design of future capacity releases and build on the success of the solar auction conducted in 2012 and 2013, it added.

Simon Corbell, ACT's environment minister, has ambitions to make Canberra – Australia’s capital city, which is located in the territory – a leader in the use of renewables and energy storage.

The announcement follows others in the past week surrounding legislation to spark investments in large-scale solar, designed to help ACT meet its goals of sourcing 90% of its electricity from renewables and a 40% reduction in Canberra's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

"There is a great opportunity for the ACT to leverage our world-leading research capacity in areas such as PV and wind resource assessment," said Corbell.

"Next generation renewable energy systems, incorporating energy storage, will address renewable energy intermittency issues and allow the retirement of ageing greenhouse gas-intensive coal and gas power stations."

However, support for renewables at federal level in Australia is currently less solid.

Last month a panel to review Australia’s renewable energy target (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 want to see the target watered down or even scrapped.