AGL Energy has swooped at the fresh opportunity to gain government funding from the first round of the Solar PV Flagships program. The round one grant had initially been awarded to the Moree Solar Farm consortium of Pacific Hydro, FRV and BP Solar, but after financial close was not reached by deadline, energy minister Martin Ferguson reopened the tender process on February 7.
It has since been a nerve-wracking wait for all contenders – Infigen-Suntech, TRUenergy, AGL and the Moree Solar Farm consortium (which was altered to include Acciona after BP Solar exited).
With a power purchase agreement (PPA) secured and costs significantly lowered from its initial proposal, many considered the Moree Solar Farm consortium to still hold the box seat for funding. But in the end it appears the federal government decided that it was too big a risk to proceed with the project given the PPA was with Pacific Hydro, which is yet to receive its retail license. If they were going to choose the original tender winner they would have needed 100 per cent confidence in the project as any hiccups would have been a PR disaster.
The Moree consortium said it was “extremely disappointed” with the news but has not given up hope that it could yet go ahead.
“We are not prepared to give up on Moree after all the effort put in to date and will work with governments, our suppliers and the community over the coming months to see what can be achieved,” FRV country manager Andrea Fontana said.
The AGL proposal effectively provided the government a safety blanket option – a project operated by one of the country’s ‘big three’ energy retailers to be designed and built by the lowest-cost solar panel maker in the world (First Solar).
The funding will see the development of two large-scale PV projects, one 106 MW project at Nyngan in NSW and a 53 MW project in Broken Hill in the same state. The projects will receive $129.7 million in funding from the federal government and a further $64.9 million from the NSW government. Total capital expenditure is anticipated to be around $450 million, with the projects expected to be operational in 2015.
Meanwhile, time is ticking to the June 30 deadline for financial close for the other project in line for Solar Flagships support – the Solar Dawn CSP project in Queensland. The lack of news on a deal is not a great sign, to say the least, but until the June 30 deadline comes and goes, hope springs eternal. Last month, it was reported that the Newman government had recommitted state funding to the project as the costs of exiting were viewed to be too high, but neither party has confirmed this. It might not matter.
It’s looking increasingly likely that the TRUenergy float will be put off until 2013.
Joint lead managers for the IPO have now been chosen by owner CLP Holdings, but given the slow progress, the rumoured plan for a November listing appears doubtful. With its Yallourn coal mine flooded, a national rebranding in the works and stock markets still in a state of flux, there appears little need to rush the process.
There’s still no official word from CLP that a float will even take place.
Australia’s largest wind turbine maker, which admittedly from a world scale is not exactly that large, has announced a cutback in staff numbers. Victorian-based Keppel Prince said it will lay off workers due to a slump in forward orders. Ever since the New South Wales and Victorian governments introduced more stringent wind farm guidelines, fewer wind farms have been on the cards and the lack of policy certainty is hitting Keppel pretty hard. Its workforce has reportedly been cut from 450 to around 400 in the last two months, according to The Age.
Talks between Geodynamics and Origin Energy on the plan to progress their Innamincka Deeps joint venture after the Habanero 4 drilling campaign ends have stalled, with Origin not agreeing to a proposed work plan put before it. The two sides failed to agree at their June 4 meeting, with the news announced to shareholders on June 8.
“Geodynamics will continue discussions with Origin Energy to agree a forward program of activities following the completion of the Habanero 4 well,” the company said in a statement.
The drilling campaign, which remains on track, is due for completion in July, so some swift progress will now be the order of the day.
The $40 million Grasmere wind farm, near Albany in Western Australia, has been opened. The 13.8 MW extension of the existing Albany wind farm will see wind supply around 80 per cent of Albany’s power. Together, the two wind farms will produce 35.4 MW of power.
Unlike the storm engulfing some areas of the country of wind farm development, the Albany facilities are seen as a tourist attraction.
“Verve Energy has delivered this project on-time and on-budget and added significantly to one of the South-West’s most popular tourist attractions,” WA energy minister Peter Collier said.
“The Albany wind farm has become a ‘must see’ attraction for visitors to the city. Each year, some 200,000 people visit to get close to a wind turbine, take in the spectacular views or walk the Bibbulmun Track boardwalk.”
The Holden Volt will be offered by 49 dealers in Australia when it goes on sale later this year.
Of the Volt dealers confirmed, 18 will be in Victoria, 11 in NSW, nine in Queensland, seven in Western Australia and four in South Australia, with a mix of city and rural locations. All dealers selling the electric vehicle will have charging stations installed.
The exact timing of the EV’s Australian release remains uncertain however, as does pricing. The Volt retails for around $39,000 in America and early rumours have suggested pricing in Australia may be closer to $60,000, which would be broadly in line with its cost in Europe.
Signs of trouble at Chinese-based LDK Solar were clear when it cut 5,000 jobs earlier this year and it appears things are not getting any better, with a key supplier exiting its contract after failing to receive payments from the firm. There have been rumours in recent months that LDK could be close to bankruptcy and such news will only add further fuel to that gossip.
Australia’s AMP Capital has gone on something of a renewable energy buying spree, adding Irish wind assets to its foray into the Indian clean energy sector a week ago.
The Irish buy, announced this week, will see it pick up wind assets from Veridian for a rumoured €200 million ($A252 million). The assets include 104 MW of projects that are either completed or in development.
Last week, the AMP Capital Asian Giants Infrastructure Fund acquired a significant minority stake in India’s Shalivahana Green Energy Limited for around $30 million. Shalivahana operates a portfolio of power generation assets across the agri-waste, hydro and wind sectors that currently produce 80 MW of power. Another 45 MW is due to come online within six months, while the company also has a pipeline of 300 MW.