Low wholesale electricity prices and uncertainty surrounding Australia’s Renewable Energy Target have resulted in the suspension of development at the Mildura Solar Power Station—a concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) project located in Carwarp, about 40 kilometers south of Mildura in Victoria, Australia.
The project, which was being developed by Solar Systems Pty. Ltd., received initial funding commitments of AU$75 million from the Australian federal government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and AU$35 million from the Victorian state government’s Energy Technology Innovation Strategy Fund (ETIS) in 2011.
A 1.5-MW demonstration facility with 40 CPV “Dense Array” dish systems and associated electrical interconnection and distribution equipment was completed at the site in June 2013 and is currently producing electricity for the country’s national grid. The second stage of the project was expected to include the installation of about 2,000 additional dish units capable of producing 100 MW at peak capacity.
Following a joint review by ARENA and Solar Systems, the decision to terminate funding was announced on Aug. 18. As a result, the ETIS funding will also be terminated. Solar Systems says it is considering options for developing the Mildura site on a smaller scale.
“ARENA enjoys a good working relationship with Solar Systems and remains open to considering any new or revised project opportunities that are ready for testing and demonstration,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.
Solar Systems claims that its “Dense Array” technology utilizes the world’s most efficient solar cells—capable of converting over 40% of the sun’s rays into energy (about double the efficiency of silicon-based cells and up to four times the efficiency of thin film solar cells). The technology uses an active cooling system and a tracking system to follow the sun throughout the day, both of which maximize power output.
“We believe that concentrated photovoltaic technology has a strong future in delivering clean, low cost energy to supplement base load power in many suitable regions around the world and we continue to assess deployment of our unique ‘Dense Array’ dish technology in prospective offshore markets,” said Dr. Michael Goldsworthy, CEO and managing director of Silex, Solar Systems’ parent company.
For more coverage of Australia’s energy policy, see “Australia’s Carbon Policy Predicament.”
—Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)