Silex Systems says it has received a $10 million grant from the Victorian government to help fund the next stage of its unique large scale concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) solar power project.
The money was handed over at a ceremony in Bridgewater Victoria, attended by the state’s energy minister Michael O’Brien. Bridgewater is host to a 600kW pilot plant that was opened in June, and a further 1.5MW will now be built at Mildura and completed next year. That will be the foundation for a 100MW CPV plant to be built in Mildura, with funding from both the state and federal governments.
Silex CEO Michael Goldsworthy said the company believed that the technology could become the world’s “leading utility scale solar power generating system. The technology uses curved mirrors to focus the sun’s energy on highly efficient “triple junction” solar cells, which has the ability to operate at more than 40 per cent conversion efficiency – more than two times that of most solar panels.
Goldsworthy says the utility scale solar power station market is forecast to grow rapidly in the coming decade. The company has already announced plans to build demonstration plants in Saudi Arabia (currently under construction) and in California.
The company said in June that the levelised cost of energy for its technology could fall below 10c/kWh within a few years – making it cost competitive with a range of competing technologies such as wind and peaking gas. Goldsworthy said then that – if large volumes were assumed – the technology could currently be deployed now at a levelised cost of energy of between 15c/kWh and 20c/kWh – which accords to similar predictions by thin film panel producers such as First Solar.
However, Goldsworthy said that with further improvements in efficiency and refinements in manufacturing, the costs could be brought down to 10c/kWh and below within a few years. “We’ve got to get there, because that is where the market is moving,” Goldsworthy told RenewEconomy at the launch. “At that price, that makes us competitive for daytime power.”
Goldsworthy says the cells currently boast efficiency rates of more than 40 per cent – about double that of the best performing rooftop PV – but he hopes that this can be lifted to more than 50 per cent, or even 60 per cent with further research.
The company said in a presentation released to the market today that stage three of the project, the 100MW facility at Mildura, will be commnced in 2014, although it give no date on its completion. The Federal government has agreed to contribute $75 million, and the state government a further $35 million (over and above stages 1 and 2) to that part of the project.