Worley plans world's largest solar plant

12/08/2008 - 12:08

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A consortium headed by WorleyParsons and including the state's biggest companies is embarking on a major study to develop a series of $1 billion, 250 megawatt solar thermal power stations across Australia.

A consortium headed by WorleyParsons and including the state's biggest companies is embarking on a major study to develop a series of $1 billion, 250 megawatt solar thermal power stations across Australia.

As foreshadowed by WA Business News on July 3, WorleyParsons formally announced the study today, which will be jointly funded by industry partners including Woodside Petroleum, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group and Wesfarmers.

Government entities Western Power, Verve Energy and Water Corporation are also members of the consortium of key energy stakeholders looking to develop the concept.

While potential sites for the first plant were not disclosed, the Pilbara region in WA was flagged as a possibility.

WorleyParsons managing director economics Peter Meurs said phase one of the study into advanced solar thermal utility-scale power was currently underway.

He said the group was targeting the first 250MW plant to be operational by 2011 which, when built, would be the largest plant of its kind in the world.

The study will investigate the potential of 33 additional plants being built by 2020, and if successful will be able to provide half of the renewable energy required to meet the government's mandatory renewable energy target by that date.

Mr Meurs said the timing was right for the development of the solar project, with the impending emissions trading scheme placing a price on carbon and the rising cost of fuel, particularly diesel.

"This is a unique opportunity for Australia to take the leadership position in this," he said.

Mr Meurs said the project has received strong support from both industry and state governments, with the WA, SA and NSW governments particularly interested in hosting the projects in their state.

A 250MW solar thermal plant would cover an area roughly measuring 3 kilometres by 2 kilometres, which would hold an array of large, reflective parabolic dishes, which focus the sun's heat onto a thin pipe encompassing a fluid.

The heated fluid goes through a heat exchange process to create steam, which drives a turbine to create electricity.

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