While I'm folding funeral services for projects I've covered in the past, Tristan Edis at the Climate Spectator has a series of articles (one, two and three) covering the demise of Wizard's solar power project in Whyalla - Why did Whyalla solar fall over ?.
On Friday Climate Spectator reported that a government agency (ARENA) had withdrawn $60 million in funding for a solar thermal mirror dish project planned for Whyalla in South Australia called Solar Oasis. This project planned to employ a technology held by a small company called Wizard Power, which is now in administration.
According to the government, they withdrew funding because the proponent had failed to demonstrate timely progress on a range of measures necessary for the project to proceed to construction.
The story that has run in the media to date is that government was, to a large degree, responsible for many of the delays besetting the project. And that this is yet another example of the Australian government abandoning a promising solar technology which will probably be commercialised overseas....
Still it is a tale well worth telling because it holds important lessons for Australian politicians, public servants and the energy industry. It provides an insightful example of a broader, long-running saga of failure in Australian government attempts to support renewable energy via one-off grant programs that select projects via tenders.
It is a story of:
-- Politicians seeking big bang announcements and dramatic breakthrough technologies, in defiance of decades of experience that energy technology progresses through incremental improvement;
-- Technological proponents desperate for funding who have mutated their plans and projects to fit what politicians wanted, but with little demonstrated evidence that they could deliver;
-- Risk averse bureaucrats asked to evaluate and manage projects for which they had little technical expertise and experience; and
-- Precious little in the way of on the ground changes.