Australia`s largest solar thermal research hub opens



The Australia Government will provide more than three quarters of a billion dollars to help build two of the largest solar power stations in the world.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson today announced the record funding to support construction of the solar projects at Chinchilla in Queensland and Moree in New South Wales.

Solar Dawn and Moree Solar Farm have been selected as the two successful consortiums to build the power plants under Round 1 of the Australian Government's $1.5 billion Solar Flagships program.

Investment in clean energy projects such as these will continue to help make industrial-scale solar power more feasible, affordable and viable.

The Australia Government's recent decsion to put a price on carbon is seen as another measure that will drive the investment needed for renewable and clean energy technologies such as solar.

The Labor Government will contribute $464 million for the project in Chinchilla worth an estimated $1.2 billion and $306.5 million towards the project in Moree worth an estimated $923 million.

Together, the projects are expected to generate enough power to support the electricity needs of more than 115,000 Australian homes per year.

The Solar Dawn consortium, led by Areva Solar, will build a 250 megawatt (MW) solar thermal gas hybrid power plant near Chinchilla. Solar Dawn will be one of the largest power plants of its kind in the world as well as one of the most environmentally responsible.

At least 85 per cent of Solar Dawn's power generation will be entirely emissions free. During construction, Solar Dawn estimates the project will generate $570 million in economic activity in the region and create 300 jobs on average.

The Moree Solar Farm consortium, led by BP Solar will build a 150 MW photovoltaic power plant near Moree. This is nearly twice the size of any photovoltaic power plant operating in the world today.

It is estimated that the project will create on average around 300 jobs during construction.

Australia's Largest Solar Thermal Research Hub Opens

Also announced today was the openinng of a new Solar Tower research facility in Newcastle, NSW today. The world-class facility will be an international hub for solar tower research, development and commercialization.

It is the largest solar thermal research facility in the country and will ensure that Australia remains at the cutting edge of solar thermal technology.

The 30 metre high solar tower surrounded by 450 locally manufactured custom designed mirrors (heliostats) is capable of generating temperatures of up to 1,500° Celsius. The increased temperatures mean higher efficiency and lower costs.

The facility will also be used to research solar energy storage, high temperature steam generation, solarised fuels and thermoelectric generators. Unlike most solar thermal power stations which require water, this facility will initially be used to develop and test a solar air turbine, which will generate electricity from air and sunshine only.

Already the CSIRO foundation project has attracted partnerships with two of the world's most prominent solar energy organisations, Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Spain's Abengoa Solar, with more international interest expected.

Australia has some of the best solar energy resources in the world, and projects such as this will enable increased use of solar power in the nation's energy mix.

Its location in Newcastle - Australia's first commercial-scale smart grid city - underscores the potential for the clean energy industry in the Hunter region, which is already home to the CSIRO National Solar Energy Centre, the Australian Solar Institute, the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources as well as the Smart Grid, Smart City Initiative.

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