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First Solar Sees Australian Project Decision Within 12 Months

July 31, 2013

First Solar Inc. (FSLR:US), a partner in Australia’s first large-scale solar project, expects a decision to be made within 12 months to boost the size of the development.

The General Electric Co. (GE:US) and Verve Energy-owned Greenough River project is seeking funding from the Australian government to help expand the plant as much as fourfold to 40 megawatts, Jack Curtis, First Solar vice president of business development and sales for Asia-Pacific, said today in an interview in Sydney.

“I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t see some positive traction on that in the next six to 12 months,” he said. “We’re pretty confident that the federal government would view that as a very likely candidate for future support since the economic value proposition would be compelling.”

First Solar, the largest U.S. solar-panel manufacturer by shipments, is supplying panels to the 10-megawatt Greenough River project to contribute to the government’s plan to get at least 20 percent of the country’s power from renewable energy by 2020. The project in Western Australia started last year.

AGL Energy Ltd. (AGK)’s planned 155-megawatt solar project in New South Wales state, which received A$166.7 million ($150 million) in funds from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, is also using Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar’s modules. AGL said today that it’s going ahead with the A$450 million project at two sites in Australia’s most populous state.

Australia Challenge

“One of the challenges we have is that we bring a U.S. cost frame of reference to Australia, and we realize it’s more expensive to build in Australia, largely because the experience just isn’t there,” Curtis said in the interview after a news conference to announce the AGL project. “So what these projects do is accelerate that experience, so that next time we can build more efficiently, more cheaply.”

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency expects decisions within six months on whether to invest in solar plants planned by Infigen Energy and Pacific Hydro Pty, Chief Executive Officer Ivor Frischknecht said today in a separate interview.

While Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square meter of any continent, according to the government, some projects picked to receive solar grants, including a venture led by Areva SA (AREVA) in the state of Queensland, have failed to meet financing deadlines and sign power-supply agreements.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Paton in Sydney at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Hobbs at

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