Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Solar Blockout

By Simon Grose

Governments have won big headlines for big money allocated to big solar projects – but kept the money.

Simon Grose is a Director of Science Media (sciencemedia.com.au).

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Knowing that the government has allocated $1.5 billion for a Solar Flagships program to support “construction and demonstration of large-scale, grid-connected solar power stations” might make you feel we are getting serious about harnessing Australia’s solar resource. But when you know that the program was announced in 2009 and has yet to make a grant, you wonder what’s been going on.

Fifty-two bids were culled to a shortlist of eight. In June last year the 150 Mw Moree Solar Farm photovoltaic project and the 250 Mw Solar Dawn solar thermal project planned for Chinchilla in Queensland were picked as winners.

But for each get upwards of $300 million they need to get twice that amount from commercial and state government sources, and both failed to do so. Solar Dawn has been given until June to scratch it together while Moree Solar has been tossed back in with three other shortlisted projects “to demonstrate whether it is still the most meritorious project”.

This is a rerun of the experience of the previous government’s announcement of funding in 2006 for the 153 Mw Solar Systems project in the Riverina, which also failed to find the matching dollars.

It should be apparent that the matching funding model does not work for solar power. It may seem a worthy way to ensure that taxpayers’ money is invested in viable projects, but the commercial...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.