Silex funded for next stage of world’s largest solar plant

By Paul Hemsley

Sun rays will fire-up 35,000 households around Mildura after the Victorian government’s approved a $10 million grant to Silex Systems to complete the world’s biggest solar plant.

The money will fund Silex subsidiary Solar Systems, which originally proposed the project in 2010, the second stage of its Large-Scale Solar Power Generation Demonstration Project.

The project consists of three stages, the first being the building of a Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) Power Station near Bridgewater demonstrator that was completed in June this year and pumps out 600 megawatts (MW) of power.

Stages two involves the boosting of output from the demonstrator facility to 2MW and the construction of of an additional 1.5MW plant in Mildura.

The third stage will see output from the Mildura plant pushed up to 100 MW, putting it on par with mid-scale conventional fuel power stations like gas.

The total project funding for the massive solar plant is $500 million project, with  $75 million from the federal government’s Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund (LETDF) as well as funds from the state government at Silex Systems itself.

One of the reasons politicians are keen to back the project is that it holds real potential to deliver a lucrative export market to an Australian company at a time when demand for cheap and clean energy is set to boom. Silex already has a facility in Saudi Arabia

A significant advantage of solar power over other energy sources is that its supply is not captive to commodity markets and price fluctuations in the same way that gas, coal and uranium are. It is however somewhat weather dependent.

The Victorian Government has stumped up overall investment of $50 million with $5 million spent so far. The government plans to spend $35 million on the third stage.

Minister for Energy and Resources, Michael O’Brien said the creation of high skill local jobs will result from the funding towards the Solar Systems project.

“The Coalition Government is supporting a range of investments in energy technology to create improved ways of providing energy to Victorian families and businesses with low or no greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr O’Brien said.

Silex CEO Dr Michael Goldsworthy said the state government’s grant furthers the technology to the next scale of development.

Dr Goldsworthy said there is strong interest from domestic and overseas companies seeking to develop large scale solar power station projects with projects expected in the United States and the Middle East.

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