Project developers have shown “strong interest” in the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s fund for large-scale solar projects.

ARENA today (Tuesday) announced it had received 77 eligible expressions of interest for its $100 million large-scale solar photovoltaic competitive round, while the CEFC said it received interest from more than 40 domestic and international project developers for its complementary $250 million financing program.

Those applying to ARENA’s fund will be able to access grants of up to $30 million for projects with a minimum generation capacity of five megawatts, while the CEFC fund will support large-scale projects with loans of over $15 million.

It is hoped the government funding for large-scale solar projects will bring online a further 200 megawatts of capacity in the Australian market – around double the current capacity.

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said the level of interest “exceeded expectations” and sent “a strong signal the sector is serious about deploying large-scale solar and making the most of Australia’s enviable natural solar advantage”.

The eligible EOIs were looking for around $1.1 billion to fund projects in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. In total, the projects represent a total capacity of 2.8 gigawatts, 10 times Australia’s existing large-scale solar capacity.

Mr Frischknecht said: “By all indications, the funding round is on track to significantly boost large-scale deployment across Australia, driving further innovation in the sector and creating efficiencies in Australia’s solar photovoltaic supply chains.”

EOIs with the “highest merit” will be invited to proceed to the full application stage by 16 December 2015, with the due date for full applications set for 15 June 2016.

Meanwhile, 40 project developers have submitted EOIs to the CEFC’s $250-million fund, for projects ranging between 15-200MW.

By state, the proposed projects submitted for consideration include Queensland (the largest number of projects, for a combined 980MW); NSW (620MW); South Australia (220MW); Western Australia (100MW); and Victoria (135MW).

Speaking of the CEFC bids, chief executive Oliver Yates said: “We have received very strong interest from project developers clearly looking to further develop Australia’s large-scale solar capacity.

“The total capacity of the proposed projects is more than 2000MW. If all these projects proceeded to development, we would see a 10-fold increase in Australia’s large-scale solar capacity.”

Mr Yates added that ARENA and the CEFC will now be working with the individual proponents to determine whether CEFC and/or ARENA finance is suitable.

He said: “As with any commercial transaction, we would not expect all projects to proceed to conclusion. However we are very encouraged by the number and quality of proposals.

“Australia is uniquely placed to meet more of its energy needs from solar power, and the price of solar is falling as technologies improve and developers gain more experience in this area.”

The news was welcomed by Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, who said: “I am pleased that the government’s $350 million commitment for new large-scale solar projects has generated significant interest from investors. This will enable the large-scale solar sector to generate enough electricity to power around 120,000 average Australian homes.”

He added that he was also “delighted” to see CEFC and ARENA working together under the newly formed Office of Climate Change and Renewables Innovation, a new authority established withn the Department of Environment, housing the Clean Energy Regulator, the CEFC, ARENA and the Climate Change Authority.

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