Wednesday, August 13, 2008

World's largest solar plant?

A report in the Herald suggested Australia is to be home to the world's largest solar powered electricity generating station.

The proposal would provide 250 MW (megawatts) of electricity by 2011, said to be sufficient for 100,000 homes. The report says it is backed by "some of the nation's biggest polluters, including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Delta Electricity".

Great to have a good news story, but the hackles may go up when it's revealed that sites mooted are scattered in WA, SA, Queensland and NSW. Almost as an afterthought, the article revealed the company behind the proposal: WorsleyParsons.

WorsleyParsons is a little-known Queensland-based company, variously described as involved in mining services and engineering. Although it would seem to have a presence in Singapore (as of 2006), it doesn't even have its own website, and the low web presence suggests it is pretty smalltime.

I would be happy to see such a venture succeed. But I suspect it would take more than a smalltime Queensland engineering company to get it off the ground. The planning resources alone for a properly-formed proposal would be considerable. To its credit, the article noted that similar proposals in the past have failed to attract sufficient financial backing.

Of course, Australia sorely needs infrastructure development like this. Without doubt the emerging legislative/regulatory environment in this area will encourage active development - although the Federal government needs to be much more proactive than it has been to date, if we are to see any serious development on this scale within the next three years. This could be just another one of those pie-in-the-sky Herald stories which vanishes without trace inside six months.

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