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First Solar has noted that, in its opinion, Australia is four years behind the US in the development of large solar farms. In a report by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, it was reported that the company is looking to help Australia build up its solar industry, specifically with a 10MW project that First Solar is partnering on with General Electric.
“This is less about the size and more about the fact that we now have a utility-scale solar project in Australia,” Jack Curtis, First Solar’s Sydney-based vice president of business development, said in a phone interview with BusinessWeek.
“The local industry can now look to this project and see they can be developed, that they can be executed. It will provide local operational data that can be used to bring the rest of the industry along.”
First Solar will be supplying panels to the 10MW Greenough River project, which is being built in Western Australia and will be the country’s first large-scale solar plant. It is anticipated that the project will bring capacity up to around 40MW.
Bloomberg noted that Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square meter, of any continent, but some projects still fail to meet the financing deadlines and sign PPAs.
“First Solar has labeled Australia as one of the more prospective markets globally, and we would agree with that,” said Tim Buckley, managing director at Sydney-based Ark Investment Management, which owns shares in First Solar.
“But progress to date has been limited, partly because of uncertainty about government energy policy," Curtis continued.
“If you can’t create a sustainable solar market in Australia, it’s difficult to see how you can create one in other markets without strong government intervention.”