Moveable solar power shifts closer to commercial reality

The Laing O'Rourke team
Laing O'Rourke solar engineers

Laing O’Rourke’s moveable solar-diesel power plant with advanced control systems has been piloted and will be commercialised through the newly formed SunSHIFT.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the innovative project showed how funding support for early stage renewable energy solutions can pave the way for new products and companies to enter the Australian market.

“ARENA initially provided funding for a feasibility study and then a pilot project, and Laing O’Rourke has now established clean energy company SunSHIFT to commercialise its moveable solar-diesel hybrid power plant,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Scalability, quick set-up, and easy pack down presents an ideal solution for many off-grid applications where temporary power is required such as construction projects, mine sites and disaster relief. It also allows solar panels to be re-used several times for greater value.

“The system performed as expected during the six-month trial period and pack-up was impressively carried out by four people in just four days.

“This successful demonstration project has given Laing O’Rourke the confidence to commit to further developing its technology and is a crucial step in proving the technical and commercial viability of moveable, modular renewable energy concepts more broadly.”

ARENA provided $410,000 support for the feasibility and design work and a further $450,000 for this latest $1.8 million demonstration project.

SunSHIFT general manager and Laing O’Rourke Clean Tech leader Dr Will Rayward-Smith said careful selection of partners greatly contributed to the success of the project.

“ARENA’s grant funding support has been crucial to the project’s success so far. ABB’s robust microgrid solutions combined with SunPower’s high-performance solar panels enabled the system to perform fault-free for the trial period,” Dr Rayward-Smith said.

“SunSHIFT provides the financial and carbon benefits of solar with the speed of deployment, flexibility and modularity of a conventional diesel or gas generator. This is music to the ears of off-grid electricity consumers. Further, due to the flexibility and mobility of the technology, we can provide systems on offtake agreements as short as five years with rollover or buy-out options or through upfront purchase with buy-back options.”

“The market has reacted very positively. We are fielding enquiries for multi-megawatt SunSHIFT systems from domestic mining sites and remote communities, and overseas from emerging economies. It is exciting to be providing solar in a format that meets the needs of the off-grid market. We are giving solar a residual value profile, avoiding stranded asset risk and decoupling asset life from end-user life.”

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