Interest has been revived in developing a 100mW plus solar thermal plant in Western Australia by two prominent developers. This interest in the solar tower has been re-established due to the fact that Australia’s Goldfields region is beginning to boom and more miners are looking towards clean energy, especially solar, as a means to reduce rising diesel costs.
The two interested developers are looking to build a large scale solar thermal system onsite the Mundari Industrial Estate, roughly 23 kms west of Kalgoorlie.
Solar tower project set to be developed near Kalgoorlie
One of the companies looking into the solar tower project is WA-based Exergy Power. Having talked about a proposal during 2013, Exergy Power have found renewed interest in the project due to the reduction of solar costs and because many miners are looking at renewable energy sources as a powering generation tool.
During February, Sandfire Resources (copper mining) stated that a $40 million solar PV plus battery storage solar tower project has been undertaken at their off-grid site, DeGrussa mine, located just North East from Perth.
It has been reported by local news agencies that Exergy Power is contemplating a $600 million, 115MW capacity solar tower thermal plant system that covers close to 700ha.
“For previous projects, the timing wasn’t quite right,” CEO of Exergy Power Brian Reddy told the Kalgoorlie Miner. “The offtake wasn’t there, the market wasn’t ready to have another renewable provider in the region. But the grid constraints are the principal driving factor now, which is really driving this project.”
Today’s energy environment and grid constraints driving solar tower project
Reddy has also been quoted to confirm that this Prospector Solar Thermal generation System will have 1500 people employed over a three-year period, while seventy people will still be employed during the operational phase of the program. This solar tower project has piqued interest from four mining companies within the Goldfields area.
Sources have confirmed that this motion already has the full support of Goldfields Esperance Development Commission, Regional Development Australia Goldfields Esperance, the WA Government’s Department of Finance and the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
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Even though whispers are heard regarding the magnitude of the solar tower project, Exergy has not been seen to begin any pilot projects or demonstrations to date. It’s also not yet fully understood what types of technology will be used to bring the project to fruition.
SolarReserve is the other company looking at building its own solar tower project within Mungari. The company has already developed their own solar thermal plant, which is due out online in America within the next few months.
The 110MW Crescent Dunes project is the final phase of commission, whereby it will provide a base load power to Las Vegas between noon and midnight. It’s the biggest molten salt concentrating power project to be found within the world once commissioned.
Similar projects have taken place in South Africa and Saudi Arabia
Similar projects have been signed to be undertaken by SolarReserve in constructing similar plants within South Africa as well as the Saudi Arabian project developer ACWA Power. They are also in talks with Alinta regarding a possible 50MW solar tower project storage facility being built in Port Augusta in order to replace an old coal fired generator.
“Kalgoorlie is a very prospective area for us, with an excellent solar resource, a number of large industrial mining loads nearby, and it’s at the end of the power network which is at capacity,” Daniel Thompson, Director of Development within Australia’s SolarReserve division, told the paper. But he underlined to RenewEconomy that it was a long term prospect.
Thompson has shown keen interest in the forthcoming ACT auction regarding next generation solar, therefore to him such a project makes a lot of sense.
Another project which has been previously proposed was that of a separate 50MW plant based in Mungari, though these rights have since been purchased by French-based Neoen. Neoen has partnered with Investec executives now at Megawatt Capitalin order to win a tender from ACT government officials in order to create a 100MW wind farm in South Australia.
Photo courtesy of Green MPs on Flickr