Silex shuts down Solar Systems dense array solar power business

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Another Australian solar technology bites the dust as Silex shuts down “dense array” solar plant technology after failing to find a buyer.

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Australian listed company Silex Systems has shut down the operations of its once ground-breaking solar power technology, saying that it failed to find an investor after deciding to focus its business on uranium laser enrichment.

The closure of Solar Systems, which had developed a “dense array” solar dish technology, follows a troubled few years for the company, which collapsed in 2011 and was then picked up at a price of just $2 million by Silex Systems.

Solar Systems built a 1.5MW trial facility of its technology, as well as a 1MW demonstration plant in Saudi Arabia. It had planned a big 100MW solar power station in Mildura, Victoria, with predictions that the technology could eventually provide power below $100/MWh. But funding for that project was pulled last year by both Silex and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency after Silex announced its strategic review.

ARENA was to put $75 million into the project, and $35 million from the Victoria government.

silex oneAt the time, the company blamed the decision on a “number of factors”, including low wholesale electricity prices and the uncertainty surrounding the Renewable Energy Target,” the statement said.

Silex CEO and Managing Director Michael Goldsworthy said in a recent statement that activities at Solar Systems’ business operations would cease immediately after a 12 month search for investors proved fruitless.

This follows a rigorous extended global process to attract new investment in Solar Systems which ultimately has been unsuccessful.

“Although this process revealed considerable interest in the ‘Dense Array’ concentrating dish technology developed by Melbourne-based Solar Systems, the company was unable to secure a buyer or investor with the funds needed to take the business forward, in part due to difficult investment conditions in target markets,” the company said.

“Whilst this technology has great potential, without significant third party investment, Silex does not have the capital required to support the large scale production and global marketing needed to make it cost effective,” Goldsworthy said.

However, the company did announce last week that it has sold the licence to its Translucent semi-conductor technology to the UK-based IQE, in return for an upfront payment of $1.5 million and six per cent royalties on products.

 

The Solar Systems technology is not the first Australian solar technology innovation to bite the dust. Origin pulled out of its Sliver solar PV technology in 2013, while the owners of another dish solar technology, went into receivership after the Solar Oasis project in Whyalla was pulled.

French nuclear giant Areva recently announced plans to dump another Australian-developed technology, the compact linear fresnel reflector installations developed by David Mills, although it will complete a 44MW solar “booster” plant at the Kogan Creek coal fired power station in Queensland.

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9 Comments
  1. Zvyozdochka 3 years ago

    Interviewing David Mills about where his tech might go would be interesting Giles. I’ve had a couple of conversations with him.

  2. tsport100 3 years ago

    Meanwhile IBM are working on the exact same technology… what’s wrong with this country?

    • Diego Matter 3 years ago

      Australia is strong in engineering, but lacking in marketing and finance.

  3. Beat Odermatt 3 years ago

    The Government would be better of simply to legislate for companies to increase the content of renewable energy. This would provide a good incentive to find new and better ways to generate clean energy. Giving Millions and Millions to companies will not provide desired results.

    • Jacob 3 years ago

      It would be better if government told the grid to install batteries instead of allowing them to gold plate.

      • Beat Odermatt 3 years ago

        Yes, we can store energy in many ways. Batteries, stored hydro, compressed air, hot water, molten salt etc. are all options. For example heavy transport in the USA is using more and more compressed air. Australia has the opportunity to use dams for stored hydro and our lakes and ocean’s provide opportunities to store compressed air. We need laws to get the ball rolling and let the best technology win.

  4. Alex 3 years ago

    Giles, are you able to clarify what will happen to the demonstration plant near mildura? Has it been sold? Will it be scrapped? Thanks Alex

  5. Ben 3 years ago

    In the last couple of days I have been past two ex-Solar Systems demonstration plants at Ntaria and Yuendumu in Central Australia. These were sold to Power & Water (NT) when Silex bought S.S.
    Neither of these were in operation. – Dishes not pointing at the sun don’t generate anything. Maybe some ex employe with a bit of knowledge can come up and offer there services.
    We are talking a couple of hundred kW here, which is otherwise being generated by diesel.

  6. Feng Jiang 3 years ago

    The technology is great but a lot of improvement needs to be done. The shut down is mainly due to bad management, actually worst I have experienced, rather than the excuse of technology or finance.

    Government invested a few million but maximum 1% goes to the technology itself. The rest is wasted in low efficient management and unnecessary things. SS had its own SCADA product but preferred to spend more than $100k to buy a third-party one without any extra benefit for the business. This case is just tip of the iceberg.

    It is in fact good for Australia because SS was hopeless so investment can go to other better companies.

    Really looking forward a better CPV in the future in Australia.

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