According to The Australian Financial Review today, making solar power a realistic economic option for short-term projects that would otherwise wholly rely on polluting diesel energy is the mission of a new mobile solar system to be commercially rolled out by construction company Laing O'Rourke.
Outback mining sites, remote communities and disaster relief projects are all potential users of the system, which has been developed with the help of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The Australian arm of UK-based Laing O'Rourke has successfully piloted the moveable solar system, which it combined with diesel power back-up, and has set up a new clean energy business, SunSHIFT Pty, to commercialise it.
Plans for the launch of the system on the market are to be officially announced on Friday and Laing O'Rourke said it had already fielded inquiries for "multi-megawatt" systems, including some from emerging overseas economies.
ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said the plant's ability to be rapidly set up, relatively cheaply moved and easily scaled up made it suitable for many off-grid applications where power was needed for only a few years.
"It is very exciting because the key issue with solar is that it costs a lot upfront to build it but then it's free to run it. That means that you normally need a long-term project to make the economics work," Mr Frischknecht said.
"In this case, because it's movable, you don't need a long-term project."
Mr Frischknecht said for projects that need power for less than a year, diesel would probably be more cost-effective, while applications lasting more than seven or eight years would find a permanent solar farm more worthwhile. But for time scales in between, the new system would win out.
ARENA provided $860,000 of funding to develop the system, covering half the funding for feasibility and design work, and a quarter of the funds for a $1.8 million demonstration project.
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