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‘World first’ portable solar hybrid plant set for Queensland mine

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A potentially game-changing, Australian-designed off-grid renewables solution is one step closer to fruition after the Australian-designed project won further funding towards the development of a pilot-scale plant.

The Australian Renewable Energy Association announced on Wednesday that it would put $450,000 towards the $1.4 million development of a 1MW portable solar-hybrid plant, designed by construction company Laing O’Rourke, having previously (in April) invested $410,000 in a feasibility study of the technology.

Laing-ORourkeARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Laing O’Rourke would now go ahead with the construction, setting up and packing down of the world’s first fully redeployable large-scale solar-diesel hybrid power plant – a 1 MW facility with 134 KWp of solar PV.

The plant – to be developed at a Laing O’Rourke’s 350-bed accommodation village in regional Queensland – will consist of transport-friendly container-sized modules, including a control centre and inverters with external, pre-wired connections – making it well suited for off-grid applications, particularly for mining and other short- and medium-term ventures.

“A semi-portable hybrid system like this carries enormous potential – it may provide industries and communities in regional and remote locations with a viable renewable energy alternative and could equally be used to assist in international relief efforts,” said Frischknecht.

“The speed at which this game-changing solution has progressed from the drawing board to the field is a testament to the clever Australian design and its potential to bring more renewable energy to off-grid Australia.”

Laing O’Rourke Managing Director Cathal O’Rourke said a major part of his company’s motivation for developing the solar-hybrid technology was to cut its own operating costs and tap a cleaner energy alternative.

“Construction and engineering must break away from traditional processes if it is to evolve and deliver projects quickly, safely and more sustainably,” O’Rourke said.

“Our engineering and construction operations across Australia currently deploy hundreds of diesel generators, of which many can potentially be augmented with this new renewable energy technology.

“As specialists in major remote and regional projects, we have an opportunity to harness vast amounts of solar energy at our projects, for a sustainable engineering solution.”

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  • John_ONeill

    So of 1,000 kW only 134 will be solar, availability about 25 percent, and the rest diesel, available anytime. Greenwash, anyone?

    • Tommyk82 .

      That really depends on the load profile. 134 kW might cover a lot of the load and rest can be for peaking, motor starts etc. In these situations, you can get a lot more solar into the mix when you add storage, that’s what’s hindering the solar penetration here, though with storage and 3x the PV it might not be very portable anymore. Not a bad starting effort.

  • John van Zuylen

    Actually, this was not a world’s first…

    Enerwhere (www.enerwhere.co) has developed a similar fully-mobile product and has been running a 5MW diesel + 340kWp system since June 2014 in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). The plant powers a labor accommodation camp of 7,000 workers. Enerwhere is currently working on even larger projects in other emirates.