• Canadian developer expects solar costs to halve by 2020
  • $1.2 billion in large-scale plants vying for funding

Renewable energy companies from Canada, China and Europe are among those seeking funds to develop about A$1.68 billion ($1.2 billion) in large solar plants in Australia amid forecasts for costs to halve by the end of the decade.

Canadian Solar Inc., Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. and Juwi AG of Germany have been picked to proceed with applications seeking a share of A$100 million in government money to support the projects, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency said Thursday. Australia’s Origin Energy Ltd., Infigen Energy and APA Group are also vying for funds.

Australia is seeking to spur development in its solar sector. While the nation gets more solar radiation per square meter than any other continent and leads the world in installing rooftop solar panels, it has trailed 19 countries from Bulgaria to Ukraine in producing the power at large solar plants.

A decline in costs in Australia to supply power from big solar projects is driving development of the industry. Those costs may drop to about A$75 a megawatt-hour in 2020, from A$150 last year, Daniel Ruoss, Canadian Solar’s manager in Australia, said by phone Thursday. Solar is closing the gap with wind power, which is cheaper, he said.

“In the next two years I think we’re getting to parity with wind,” he said. “Australia has a very attractive environment to invest and participate in.”

Canadian Solar, the world’s third-biggest solar manufacturer in 2014, has two of the 22 proposed large-scale solar projects selected by the government, with developments planned in Oakey and Longreach, Queensland. The Guelph, Ontario-based company has a pipeline of more than 1,000 megawatts of proposed large-scale solar plants in Australia, Ruoss said.

Companies are seeking more than three times as much money as what’s available for projects, according to the government. Almost half of the proposals on the government’s list are in Queensland, with Origin planning a 107 megawatt plant next to its Darling Downs Power Station. Their submissions are due by June 15.

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