GREEN DEALS: A new solar dawn for Moree

It’s been a big week in clean tech news, with the Moree Solar Farm firmly back on the agenda, Pac Hydro announcing a Brazilian foray, a Chinese firm entering the Australian wind sector and Tesla releasing its new electric car. But what’s happening with Solar Dawn?

Moree Solar Farm

Pacific Hydro this week confirmed it is keen to push ahead with the Moree Solar Farm, albeit with a reduced capacity of 50-100 MW.

The Moree Solar Farm consortium, which initially included Pacific Hydro, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures and BP Solar, won a tender as part of the first round of the government’s Solar Flagships program. After failing to reach financial close, the government re-opened the tender process and BP Solar opted out of the venture. The consortium was then edged out by AGL Energy for government funding when the announcement was made earlier this month.

Lane Crockett, Pacific Hydro’s general manager, told ABC radio the company was talking to the government about the potential for the Moree development to receive funding under the ARENA program, due to begin operation on July 1. Crockett said the government still viewed the Moree Solar Farm project as a “very attractive project for funding.”

While the company is hopeful the Moree project will receive funding, Crockett said it will likely end up between a third and two-thirds of its original size (150 MW).

“This project offers something beyond what AGL is offering,” he said.

“It’s a different technology. It’s tract technology, so the panels move and they follow the sun around. So there’s a lot of information and benefits for the industry that would come out of making the project work. Plus, the Moree community has been so supportive of this project so we’d really like to develop it for them as well.”

The other two shortlisted projects for Solar Flagships funding, the Infigen-Suntech consortium and the TRUenergy-FirstSolar JV, were referred to ARENA after the decision in favour of AGL as well. As such, there remains a strong chance all four of the shortlisted projects will eventually receive some government funding.

Solar Dawn

The picture is a bit more clouded when it comes to the Solar Dawn project, the other initial winner of round one funding from the Solar Flagships program. At the time when Moree was asked to go through the tender process again, the consortium behind the Queensland-based Solar Dawn was given an extension from the federal government, largely because there were no real viable alternatives for a similar project.

The new deadline was set for June 30 and we have heard little since. A representative from the Office for Energy Minister Martin Ferguson told Climate Spectator no new information was available to be divulged at this stage.

“An update on the status of the project will be made after the date has passed and the government has had the opportunity to review the information provided.

If financial close is not reached, it would not surprise if the government masked the bad news with a positive by announcing funding for one or more of the Infigen, Pacific Hydro or TRUenergy projects that were overlooked a few weeks ago (see: first story above).

On a side note, another June 30 deadline should be taken note of, the one for HRL’s controversial coal-fired power plant plan in Victoria. The federal government has said that June 30 is the final deadline for this project and no news from HRL has been forthcoming to-date.

Pacific Hydro, Vale

Australia’s Pacific Hydro has finalised a $315 million joint venture deal with Brazil’s Vale to build two wind farms in Brazil’s north-east, but it is likely just the beginning of its Brazilian expansion.

The Australian renewable energy firm’s deal with mining giant Vale will see the two firms hold 50 per cent of the two projects, due for completion in late 2014. Making the long-term economics of the project quite simple for Pacific Hydro is that Vale has committed to be the sole off-taker of electricity produced by the projects for a period of 20 years.

While the Vale deal is good, Pacific Hydro CEO Rob Grant is confident the company is on track for more deals in the South American country. In an interview with Bloomberg, Grant said Pac Hydro was hoping to build 500 MW of wind farms in Brazil, which would mean 30 per cent of their business was in the country. The Vale deal will see 140 MW taken care of, with the remaining 360 MW to come through deals of similar structures. According to Bloomberg, Pacific Hydro has been in contact with several firms since the Vale JV announcement at the end of last week.

In the statement relating to the Vale deal, Pac Hydro also took the opportunity to confirm it was on track to start retail operations in Australia in the third quarter.

Goldwind, CGN Wind Energy

The 19.5 MW Morton Lane’s wind farm has been sold from one Chinese firm to another. Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology has said that CGN Wind Energy will take over ownership of the development in Victoria’s west. It is CGN’s first entry into the Australian market, with the firm saying it was a significant buy as it looks to expand outside China. Goldwind has supplied the 13 turbines for the site, which is still under construction.

The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors has released its new electric sedan, the model S, in America. While the car is big news and will create the bulk of the company’s revenue for the coming year, what drew the most attention was the bold claim from CEO Elon Musk that, as early as 2025, electric cars could be as popular as the petrol guzzlers we see owning the road today. The 40-year-old CEO, founder of PayPal and SpaceX, has never appeared short on confidence – it is known that Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of ‘Tony Stark’ in the Iron Man blockbusters was based on Musk’s personality.

The model S is the second car in the Tesla line-up after the Roadster and unquestionably the more important launch as it goes after a wider cross-section of the market. The Roadster, being a sports car, was deliberately aimed at the affluent, who are dominant among early adopters. And given most of electric car traction to date has come from celebrity buying, the Roadster certainly fitted in perfectly. A sedan doesn’t turn heads quite as much, though it is quite a good looking car, and the substance will be the key to its success. It is still directed at a wealthy cross-section of society however, at $US49,900. The Roadster sells for $US109,000.

Quick takes

-- The final spots in the inaugural board for ARENA have been filled and Ivor Frischknecht will be its first CEO. ARENA begins operation on July 1, though Frischknecht, currently investment director at Starfish Ventures, won’t start until August 6.

-- Green Rock Energy has received $5.38 million in government funding for its Mid West Geothermal Power Project via the Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) program. The company is now looking for additional funding from the Emerging Renewables Program in a bid to have at least the majority of first well costs accounted for by the public funds. The company said public funding was desperately needed (I may have paraphrased that bit) due to the lack of private investor interest in Australia’s geothermal sector. The first well is expected to be drilled in 2013, although specific timing has yet to be finalised.

-- TRUenergy’s Yallourn coal mine flooded again late last week, crippling the associated power station once more. It is operating with only one generator, but hopes are all four generators will not be far from full operation.

-- ASX-listed Panax Geothermal has welcomed the prospect of further geothermal support from the Indonesian government, where it has four projects. The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry in the country has proposed an increase to the feed-in tariff of at least 24 per cent from its current rate of $US97MW/h.

-- The Clean Energy Finance Corporation legislation has cleared the Senate. Not much more to say on it that hasn’t been said on this website. Here’s both the pro viewpoint and the negative viewpoint, but at least it puts clean energy in the spotlight.

-- Hydromet will soon no longer be an ‘ASX-listed company’ after investor Simon Henry reached the 90 per cent level of ownership, which will see him compulsorily acquire all outstanding shares.

-- Danish-based Vestas has received a turbine order for a 90 MW Swedish wind farm backed by iconic Swedish retailer IKEA. The 30-turbine order is IKEA’s biggest foray into the wind sector yet and typifies the growing interest in wind power from industrial companies, Vestas said.