"Mobile solar" plants to challenge diesel for use in mines, construction sites

Australian developed solar technology that aims to tackle the dominance of diesel generators in the temporary power market will be tested at the 1MW scale in New South Wales, off the back of a new grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The modular, mobile solar power solution was developed by the Australian arm of UK-based builder Laing O’Rourke, initially as a way to cut diesel fuel costs at the company’s own remote construction sites.

Laing O’Rourke’s SunSHIFT solar block. Source: Supplied

Obviously, the idea paid off, and a new subsidiary, called SunSHIFT, was born, along with plans to target the multi-billion dollar large-scale, short-term power market, including mining projects, off-grid applications and remote communities.
The technology combines solar PV and control systems together with a conventional diesel or gas generator, with the potential to add battery storage, and – crucially – can be set up and packed down in just days.
Laing O’Rourke said on Wednesday that the design of SunSHIFT’s 1MW Block had reached a stage where large-scale demonstration was needed “to satisfy the overwhelming interest from the domestic and international entities in the temporary power market.
ARENA – which has supported the technology from its inception to manufacturing and pilot scale demonstration – said on Wednesday that it had committed $2.1 million of recoupable funding support to deploy a 1MW Block of the SunSHIFT in Rutherford, in the Hunter region of NSW, which is scheduled to take place in the second half of 2017.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project would provide proof that SunSHIFT could be deployed at scale then effectively packed up and redeployed. It will also need to prove that the system can be delivered at the specified quality within tested timeframes and budget.
If this is successfully proven and the technology commercialised, ARENA will earn a royalty from the proceeds.
“Quick set up and pack down, along with sizing flexibility, presents several advantages for different applications.
The megawatt-scale technology was particularly well-suited to construction and mining operations that that only last a handful of years, Frischknecht said, allowing them to tap solar power quickly, and without the typical 20-plus year payback period for installations.

“You can start small – with a single 1MW block alongside your existing generation facility – and as you become comfortable with the approach and the economics improve, you can add more solar blocks.
SunSHIFT general manager, Will Rayward-Smith, said that the new ARENA funding would bring its 1MW Block solar PV product one step closer to commercial deployment.
“After three exciting years in partnership with ARENA, ABB and SunPower, we can now showcase our megawatt-scale modular and moveable solar PV product to the market,” Dr Rayward-Smith said.
“Off the back of this demonstration, we will be ramping up manufacturing to meet the strong demand for our product from mining companies, independent power providers, and infrastructure investors active in emerging markets and developing economies.”
Laing O’Rourke Australia managing director, Cathal O’Rourke, said ARENA’s support had been key to the the development of the technology, taking it from research, to demonstration and now pre-commercial deployment.
“The ongoing collaboration with ARENA has kept the SunSHIFT team intently focused on technical and commercial innovation to overcome the barriers limiting use of renewable energy generation for large-scale, short-term power,” he said.
“What started out as an idea to reduce diesel fuel consumption for power generation at our own remote construction sites has evolved into an entirely new type of power generation asset ready for uptake in the multi-billion dollar global temporary power market.”

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