ARENA backs portable solar hybrid study

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ARENA announces $410,000 in funding for study into potentially ‘game changing’ portable, solar hybrid power plant.

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A feasibility study into a potentially ‘game changing’ portable solar hybrid power plant has been named as the latest recipient of funds from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, with ARENA announcing on Wednesday that it would put $410,000 towards the project.

The study, to be undertaken by global construction company Laing O’Rourke, will test the feasibility of a hybrid solar-diesel power system that could constructed off-site, and would be stackable, storable and quick to set up or break down.

The concept is in line with one of ARENA’s key stated priorities – to drive the uptake of renewable energy in off-grid locations, such as remote communities and mining sites in rural Australia.

In February, the Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation (PWC) released a handbook and modelling software package to boost off-grid solar hybrid uptake, developed through a research project supported by $460,000 funding from ARENA.

“The permanent and long-term nature of solar installations is currently a giant barrier to their use off-grid, particularly in mining operations,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht in a media statement on Wednesday.

“A portable hybrid system, constructed off-site and easily transportable, could be a real game changer for off-grid locations in Australia and beyond.”

Frischknecht also pointed to the potential such an energy solution could offer for export and use in emergency situations; as well as offering a cheaper, more cost effective energy source that would “unshackle off-grid locations” from their reliance on trucked-in diesel.

Head of clean technology at Laing O’Rourke, Dr Will Rayward-Smith, said the construction company was well placed to support the development of renewable energy in off-grid locations.

“Our Select Plant Hire subsidiary currently manages hundreds of diesel generators across Australia, which can potentially be augmented with this new plant,” he said.

“As specialists in major remote and regional projects, we have an opportunity to harness vast amounts of solar energy at these sites.”

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