Solar PV Station Kalgoorlie. Image Source: beyondzeroemissions.org
The historic gold rush town of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia’s mineral-rich Goldfields region is set to become the site of the country’s biggest photovoltaic power plant.
Investec, an international banking and asset management group, has proposed the construction of a 50-megawatt solar PV plant at a site close to Kalgoorlie, nearly 600 kilometres to the north of Perth at the terminus of the Great Eastern Highway.
Investec hopes to obtain land tenure for the Mungari Industrial Estate, located 26 kilometres southwest of Kalgoorlie, within the next few months before seeking power purchase agreements and obtaining project financing. The banking conglomerate expects construction to commence as early as next year.
Investec project manager Lynne Lagan said Kalgoorlie was an appropriate site because of its climate resources and proximity to the South West Interconnected System, which supplies the southwest corner of the state with electricity.
Speaking to RenewEconomy, Lagan said Investec had been working on land tenure arrangements for the project for 18months, and that they were “now looking to finalise these arrangements.”
The project is also likely to avail itself of ample funding from the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which, starting July 1, will have $2 billion per year to invest in renewable energy projects.
Western Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam also weighed in on arrangements for the proposed project, calling for Investec to switch from a photovoltaic plant to a next generation solar power station which employs the latest thermal concentration technology from Europe.
According to Ludlam, the current plan will see the construction of an industrial PV plant which simply deploys the same solar panels installed on the rooves of residential homes on a large utility scale.
Ludlam instead advocates the construction of a non-photovoltaic solar concentration plant, which unlike standard PV technology is capable of storing solar energy for 24 hour operation.
“What we are proposing are solar concentration plants that aren’t photovoltaic,” he said. “You can store the sun’s energy and then let it go after dark or in cloud weather, and effectively you can run solar power stations around the clock.”
WA is believed to hold tremendous promise for the development of utility scale solar power, due to its ample solar resources and exorbitant power costs.