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Published 25 June 2013 11:48, Updated 05 July 2013 11:22
Silex Systems chief Michael Goldsworthy says the deployment of utility-scale solar power stations such as the one planned for Mildura could be a game-changing renewable energy technology. Photo: Luis Ascui
Australia’s largest listed clean technology company, Silex Systems, is well on its way to commercialising the solar technology of a collapsed predecessor after this week flicking the switch for a new power facility in Mildura, Victoria.
The facility is feeding 1.5 megawatts of power onto the national grid using highly efficient concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology. This is enough power to feed about 500 homes, Silex says. Silex plans to upgrade the complex to 100 megawatts with the help of $110 million of additional government grants.
Silex chief executive Michael Goldsworthy says the Mildura facility is a major stop in the commercialisation of Solar Systems’ technology.
“If successfully commercialised, the deployment of utility-scale solar power stations around the world has the ability to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues within a few years,” Goldsworthy says. “This could be a game-changing renewable energy technology.”
Silex bought the assets of collapsed technology developer Solar Systems in 2010 after the company failed to raise a required $100 million to roll out its plans. Silex spent an additional $20 million on reconfiguring Solar’s technology.
The Mildura facility consists of 40 dishes, each made up of more than 100 curved mirrors. These concentrate the sunlight onto receivers of densely packed solar cells which convert the rays to power at 43 per cent efficiency. This compares with around 20 per cent efficiency for standard silicon solar panels. The system takes up much less space for vastly greater amounts of power production than conventional solar.
A one-megawatt facility near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia is on track to be completed later this year as the oil-rich nation ironically seeks to generate more renewable power at home to free up its oil for lucrative export.
The Mildura plant received a $10 million grant from the Victorian government. The upgrade to 100 megawatts will begin construction in late 2014 subject to securing a power purchase agreement and the finalisation of funding arrangements, which include $75 million from the federal government’s Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund, and $35 million from the Victorian government’s Energy Technology Innovation Strategy Fund.
According to Bloomberg, the Mildura plant would be the third-largest CPV facility announced globally, and much bigger than the current largest, which is a 30-megawatt facility in Colorado.
Silex has a market cap of $361 million and develops a range of energy technologies. It is also working with US nuclear companies to roll out its next-generation uranium enrichment methods.