Assessment of the 20 eligible applications for funding received by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency in its latest round found the cost of building large-scale solar photovoltaic plants in Australia is falling.

The proposals are seeking $211 million funding towards $1.6 billion worth of projects with 757 MWs of total capacity, ARENA announced this week.

“Our funding round has already reduced costs through competitive tension and encouraged a portfolio of new Australian solar plants to proceed to more advanced stages of planning and development,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

“Moree Solar Farm and AGL’s Nyngan and Broken Hill plants needed around $1.60 in ARENA funding per watt. The funding requirement for new projects fell to 43 cents per watt in the expression-of-interest phase of our funding round in November last year,” he said.

“The need fell again by more than a third to an average of 28 cents per watt in the full applications. This clearly demonstrates how quickly large-scale solar PV costs are falling supported by ARENA funding, which has resulted in rising confidence, lower finance costs and a more supportive market for power purchase agreements.”

Mr Frischknecht said a knowledge-sharing forum for existing ARENA-supported developers encouraged collaboration and the sharing of solutions to common problems.

“Growth in the local large-scale solar PV sector will provide a significant boost for Australia’s regional economy, with our competitive funding round estimated to create upwards of 1000 new jobs in construction, manufacturing and civil engineering,” he said.

ARENA has worked closely with state governments and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will be providing debt financing, in developing this funding round.

ARENA expects to announce the successful projects in September.