Solar Systems says it has commenced operating at its concentrating photovoltaic solar power station in Mildura, which will be the largest in Australia once the demonstration phase is fully installed in the next few weeks.
The company said on Monday that the first 10 of its solar dish systems had been successfully commissioned and are operating. The remaining three systems of 30 dishes will be brought online progressively in the next few weeks, taking the facility to its initial capacity of 1.5MW.
The demonstration system of the “dense array” solar technology is a fore-runner for what is expected to be a 100MW power plant to be built, with construction to start in 2014. Another 1MW demonstration plant is being built in Saudi Arabia, with hopes of further development as that country pushes into the start of a $100 billion solar spending program
“We are very excited about the commercial prospects for this technology, which will potentially provide very low cost electricity from large utility-scale solar power station projects planned for deployment around the world,” said Dr Michael Goldsworth, the CEO of Silex Systems, the listed parent company.
The company said last 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 large scale solar PV, and below the cost of new gas and coal fired generation.
The Mildura Demonstration Facility and associated product development program has received strong financial support from the Victorian State Government with a $10 million funding package, as well as some additional financial support from the Australian Federal Government.
Goldsworthy said the planning phase for the next stage, the 100MW Mildura Solar Power Station Project, continues with construction commencement expected late 2014 2014, subject to successful operation of the demonstration facility and finalisation of funding arrangements.
The technology uses ultra-high efficiency PV cells known as multi-junction cells that were initially developed for space and satellite applications. They work best in excellent sunlight, which is collected in mirrors and focused onto a small area of CPV cells. For instance, the 600kW pilot facility at Bridgewater uses just 4 square metres of modules. A 270kW rooftop solar PV array installed at Hervey Bay Hospital this year by another Silex subsidiary, Silex Solar, used 1,670 sq m of modules.
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.