Solar-plus-storage project sees revival in WA

Plans to install large-scale solar thermal power at the Mundari Industrial estate in Western Australia’s Goldfields region have been revived, with two local solar developers expressing interest in the project.

The first, WA-based Exergy Power, was reportedly considering building a $600 million, 115MW plant – potentially with solar towers and storage – for the Kalgoorlie mine site.

Exergy Energy CEO Brian Reddy said the Prospector Solar Thermal Generation Facility, which would employ 1500 people during a three-year construction period and up to 70 people once operational, had attracted the interest of four mining companies in the Goldfields.

“For previous projects, the timing wasn’t quite right,” 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 diving factor now, which is really driving this project.”

SolarReserve, another company to express interest in Mungari, has its own solar thermal power plant due to come online in the US in the next few months.

The company’s 110MW Crescent Dunes project is in the final stage of commission, and will provide base load power to Las Vegas between the hours of noon and midnight. It will be the largest molten salt concentrating power project in the world once commissioned.

The company is also one of a number of companies talking to Alinta about a possible 50MW solar tower plus storage facility at Port Augusta, to replace one of the ageing coal fired generators.

Director of development Australia Daniel Thompson, who has also been targeting the mining industry, and has expressed interest in the upcoming ACT auction on next generation solar, told the paper that the Mungari project makes a lot of sense, but was only one of a number of prospective sites in the area.

“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,” Thompson told the paper. But he underlined to RenewEconomy that it was a long-term prospect.

A separate 50MW solar PV plant at Mungari has been proposed previously, although the project rights have since been sold by Investec Bank to French-owned Neoen, along with a solar PV plant proposal near Geraldton.

Neoen last week teamed up with former Investec executives now at Megawatt Capital to win a tender from the ACT government to develop a 100MW wind farm at Hornsdale in South Australia.

Earlier this week, copper miner Sandfire Resources announced a $40 million solar PV plus battery storage project at its off-grid DeGrussa mine north east of Perth.

Top Image Credit: Green Power Labs

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson