Phase one of Australia’s first floating solar plant was launched today in Jamestown, South Australia, where it will begin supplying power to a waste water facility owned by Northern Areas Council.
Infratech Industries, the Sydney-based company behind the development, said on Wednesday it had completed the first installation of the $12 million, 4MW PV system that would serve as its showcase project.
Infratech, established nearly three years ago in Australia and Singapore, has developed floating solar power plants in countries including France and South Korea, but the company says these were essentially test sites for the new and improved model planned for South Australia.
The South Australian technology was co-developed by a team of 15 engineers and academics from Flinders University’s Nano Science and Technology Department, who will remain involved with further research and development and installations.
The first part of the plant floats on sewerage water near the Northern Areas Council Waste Water treatment facility. Eventually, PV modules will cover five basins of water in Jamestown and Gladstone, in South Australia’s north.
Once completed, the floating solar array is expected to produce more than enough energy to power the entire wastewater treatment facility, with excess power to be exported for use by council buildings and other community facilities.
Infratech’s Adelaide-based director, Felicia Whiting, said the PV installation would not only meet the energy needs of the treatment plant at a 15 per cent lower cost than grid electricity, but would generate 57 per cent more power than land-based PV systems.
“The proprietary tracking, cooling and concentrating technology uses water to counteract the gradual loss of output caused by overheating solar panels to create a better performing and more efficient system,” Whiting said.
“On a broader scale, the technology is suitable for any body of water including drinking water and moving water bodies such as lakes.”
The installation of the panels on the water’s surface also reduces evaporation by up to 90 per cent, offering crucial water conservation for dry climate regions and areas affected by drought.
Australian solar advocacy group, Solar Citizens, said the Jamestown project showed how “inspiring and innovative” renewable energy projects could become reality when state governments provided a supportive policy environment.
“South Australia has shown the way, now it’s time for other states and the Commonwealth to get behind delivering more renewable energy, not less,” said Solar Citizen’s national director Claire O’Rourke.
“When business and the Australian people are crying out for leadership on renewable energy it’s extremely disappointing that our political leaders are ignoring their calls.
“The uncertainty that the Government has created around the Renewable Energy Target (RET) has had a devastating impact on the industry.”