|An artist’s concept of the HCPV technology: the field of heliostats and the tower-mounted PV modules.|
A A$420 million (US$321 million), 154MW solar power plant—designed to be the biggest and most efficient solar photovoltaic power station yet in the world—is to be built in north-west Victoria, Australia by Australian company Solar Systems. The Victorian power station will meet the annual needs of more than 45,000 homes.
The power station will use high-performance solar cells—originally developed to power satellites—that are three times more efficient than standard solar panels. Solar Systems has also developed the capability to concentrate the sun by 500 times onto those solar cells for ultra-high power output.
The power station will use technology known as Heliostat Concentrator Photovoltaic (HCPV): fields of heliostats (sun-tracking mirrors) focusing sunlight on receivers. The receivers house photovoltaic (PV) modules, which consist of arrays of ultra high-efficiency solar cells that convert the sunlight directly into electricity.
The heliostat control system, PV modules and cooling system designed to keep the solar cells running at 60° C are patented by Solar Systems.
Solar Systems has been collaborating with Spectrolab, a Boeing Company, on the optimization of the Spectrolab multi-junction solar cells for use in Solar Systems’ existing CS500 dish systems. The two agreed in August to go into commercial production with the technology.
This is a new generation of solar technology. The secret is to be able to make a solar power module work about 1,500 times harder than typical solar panels. If you can do this at high efficiency using low-cost materials, you have the recipe for an infinite supply of clean energy at an affordable price. This new power station will demonstrate these principles and produce the most affordable solar energy yet generated.—John Lasich, Solar System Technical Director
The technical outcomes of the joint work were demonstrated in April when Solar Systems upgraded one of its CS500 dishes at a power station it operates in Hermannsburg (central Australia) from approximately 24kW to 35kW simply by replacing the existing silicon PV modules with the new MJ cell based modules. The process took only 2 hours and the output of the system increased by more than 50%.
The Australian Treasurer Peter Costello announced a A$75 million grant to the project under the Federal Government’s Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund (LETDF). Solar Systems was one of more than 30 companies that bid for $500 million under the LETDF program, which aims to foster competitive technology that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Victorian Premier Steve Bracks announced that the Victorian Government will also support the project with a grant of $50 million.
Solar Systems will build the power station across a number of different sites, and has formed a new company—Solar Systems Generation Pty Ltd—to construct the station.
The Victorian project is the first phase of a plan to deploy more than 1,000 MWs across Australia, China and the United States in a A$2.5-billion project under the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.
(A hat-tip to Rafael Seidl!)