Solar power still shining

A MORE than $13 million solar development plan is underway for nearby Blackwire Reserve despite growing uncertainty in the renewable energy marketplace.

Victorian based company Australian Solar Group (ASG) amended its previously endorsed application last month to increase the facility's capacity from 5MW to 14MW.

The proposed amendment to the site, located at the outer edge of Swan Hill on Sea Lake-Swan Hill Road, is being reviewed by Swan Hill Rural City Council.

According to ASG, the updated proposal will save approximately 32,056 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from Victoria's brown coal power stations each year for more than 25 years. 

The Blackwire development, across an area of more than 69ha, is part of ASG's planned facilitation of establishment and expansion of renewable energy facilities in appropriate locations, with minimal impact on native flora and fauna.

ASG's increased commitment to the project follows the decision this week by Mildura-based Silex Systems to abandon its Carwarp power station expansion after the federal Coalition announced a review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET).

It's an unknown space, to be honest, and the review of the RET has heightened uncertainty in the market

The announcement has sparked growing uncertainty around the renewable energy target and low wholesale electricity prices.

Meanwhile, the NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes has revealed the state has no plan to meet its declared target for 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.

Federal Member for Mallee Andrew Broad told The Guardian last month that the Coalition would meet the renewable energy target.

"We will meet 20 per cent by 2020... we're not far off it now," Mr Broad said.

But Mr Broad indicated there were concerns about the viability of investing in solar in the current economy.

"We have to look at how to look after our planet and also grow our opportunities," he said.

"In principle I support a renewable energy target, but we have to make sure we do it right... we need to lengthen out the time-frame of the renewable energy target."

Against this backdrop, ASG has more than 150MWp worth of solar projects currently under development, including one 60MWp solar project in North West Victoria.

The project is intended to introduce R&D and commercialisation of new technology aimed at reducing the cost of solar power stations.

"Therefore, the success of the project has the potential to contribute further emissions reduction," the report states.

Swan Hill council director of development and planning Brett Luxford said the future was unclear when it came to maximising the power of the Mallee sun.

"It's an unknown space, to be honest, and the review of the RET has heightened uncertainty in the market," Mr Luxford said.

"We have the planning permit already and we do hope that it will go ahead and the additional sizing does show some level of confidence in the opportunities for renewable energy.

"We are trying to support the application through the introduction of this solar development both through the planning permit and the sale of the land."