The future is uncertain for Moree’s $923 million solar farm after the Moree Solar Farm Consortium lost the bid for Federal Government funding.
On Saturday Resources Minister Martin Ferguson announced the grant under the Federal Government’s $1.5 billion solar flagships program would be awarded to AGL for two other projects.
The Moree Solar Farm was originally approved for $306.5 million in funding under the solar flagships program last year.
However, the Moree Solar Farm (MSF) Consortium, headed by Pacific Hydro and Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), failed to meet a December deadline to secure financial backing.
In February this year Mr Ferguson announced the government would be re-opening the tender process, and MSF Consortium had to put in a revised bid to be evaluated for the funding.
In a decision Mr Ferguson said was purely based on commercial viability, a $130 million grant was awarded to AGL and partner First Solar following the re-tendering process.
The partners are planning to build a $450 million, 159-megawatt solar photovoltaic project at two sites in Broken Hill and Nyngan.
Pacific Hydro general manager of Australia Lane Crocket said the MSF Consortium was extremely disappointed by the decision not to award the Moree Solar Farm the funding.
“We believe the Moree Solar Farm remains a project of the highest quality that delivers on the Solar Flagship Program objectives,” Mr Crocket said.
“While the consortium is extremely disappointed with this decision, we feel for the Moree community who have provided such great support to us and who were in dire need of some good news after recent natural disasters,” he said.
Mr Crocket said the MSF Consortium had been confident going into the re-tender process as they had substantially reduced the costs of the project and as a result reduced the funding requirements.
The decision affected local politicians too, with both Moree Plains Shire Mayor Katrina Humphries and Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton expressing their disappointment.
Moree Plains Shire Mayor Katrina Humphries said she could not understand why the Moree Solar Farm had not been approved for the funding the second time around.
“I know that the consortium are devastated,” Councillor Humphries said. “This isn’t something that just popped up; we’re going into nearly three years of work on this (project) and we had it (last time), that’s what I don’t understand.
“I am bitterly disappointed and I think the town will be too. It is a slap in the face for us.”
Mr Coulton said Mr Ferguson had assured him the decision was made purely on commercial grounds.
“There was definitely issues with the MSF Consortium bid... (Mr Ferguson) said the bid for Broken Hill and Nyngan was much more solid and provided per dollar more power for the government so that’s why they went that way,” Mr Coulton said.
However country manager of FRV Andrea Fontana said the MSF Consortium was committed to pursuing the project through other funding channels.
“We are not prepared to give up on Moree after all the effort put in to date and (we) will work with governments, our suppliers and the community over the coming months to see what can be achieved,” Mr Fontana said.
Mr Coulton said Mr Ferguson had told him there may be other funding options in the near future for the Moree Solar Farm.
“There definitely are programs underway which Moree might slot into and I think that the work that has been done by (the parties involved) will mean it will not be a particularly difficult job to put together another bid.”
Cr Humphries agreed with this sentiment. “I am hopeful and quite optimistic that one way or another the Moree Solar Farm will happen,” Cr Humphries said.