US solar company SolarReserve is showing signs of cracking the Australian solar market – but not (yet) with its preferred technology of concentrating solar and storage. Rather, the company has entered into a partnership with local engineering firm Decmil Group to build a 70MW PV plant in New South Wales.
ASX-listed Decmil said on Thursday it had established a Memorandum of Understanding for the development, design and construction of the proposed NSW solar project, pending the success of development approval and fund raising processes.
According to Decmil, SolarReserve will be the project owner and developer and Decmil, including its subsidiary Scope Australia, would manage the development approval process – which it is about to begin – and engineering design work through to construction delivery under an EPC contract.
SolarReserve’s head of development in Australia, Daniel Thompson, said that while the location of the NSW project remained undisclosed, there was land under option and, all things going to plan, construction was expected to commence in the 2018 calendar year.
For SolarReserve – which is best known for its nearly 10,000MW global solar thermal portfolio (another ~3,400MW is solar PV) – it would be the company’s first actual construction in the Australian market.
But not for want of trying. It has proposed building an Australian version of its world-leading US Crescent Dunes plant – a 110MW CSP plant with eight hours storage – north of Port Augusta in South Australia, last year submitting the plan to the state government’s tender for low-carbon energy.
More recently, the Santa Monica-based company upgraded its SA plan to include a total of six large solar tower power plants with molten salt storage – with the caveat that none would be built without a contract and finance for the first plant near Port Augusta.
As we reported here, SolarReserve has claimed its six power plants would provide 660MW of reliable, dispatchable and zero emissions power – with a combined total of more than 5GWh of molten salt storage – that could account for one quarter of South Australia’s power needs, while helping to keep a lid on power prices, and providing 24,000 jobs during construction.
Thompson told RenewEconomy on Thursday that the biggest hurdle to getting the comnpany’s CSP projects up and running in Australia had been finding suitable power off-takers.
But despite this, and any successes SolarReserve might have in the Australian PV market, he stressed that the company’s focus here remained firmly on the development of CSP.
“We think that with the changing energy landscape, the demand for large-scale solar generation with built-in storage will continue to grow,” Thompson said.
To that end, the company is having its best success in South Africa, and increasing success in China, where it has 4000MW in MOUs for CSP projects.