Construction on Mildura solar system begins but what can taxpayers expect?

Solar Farm
 photo credit: mcmees24

The announcement last month from R&D company Silex Systems that construction on Australia’s largest solar power station at Mildura, VIC, has begun gladdens the heart. And the hip pocket nerve. After all Victorian and federal taxpayers are helping to fund this venture to the tune of around $120 million.

So, what can we expect for our hard-earned dosh? How much “bang for our buck” in other words?

Well the expectations are impressive if you listen to Silex’s CEO Dr Michael Goldsworthy. The site is expected to be built in two phases. The first is a demonstration facility with a capacity of 2MW. This initial capacity, which will allow for tweaking of the system (as well as an opportunity for the public to have a bit of a squiz one hopes) is scheduled to be completed in late 2012.

But wait there’s more folks…

The second phase is the real gold mine. Subject to the successful operation of phase one, Silex plan to construct a 100MW solar power station on the site. According to the company’s press release in December, this will incorporate a cutting edge form of “triple junction” solar cells which is capable of a conversion efficiency of around 40 percent. To give this some perspective, this is about double the efficiency of today’s best silicon-based cells, says Silex.

The second phase will be enough to power up to 40,000 average homes.

Ordinary taxpayers start thinking of a return on investment through cheaper power (at least in Mildura and its surrounds) when Dr Goldsworthy starts using words such as “key” and “commercialisation” in the same sentence.

“The Mildura demonstration facility represents a key milestone in the commercialisation of Solar Systems’ unique ‘Dense Array’ CPV technology,” he said adding that construction of this phase will begin in 2013 and is expected to be ready by 2016.

This is, according to Dr Goldsworthy, a “world-class solar power facility” built on the Dense Array concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology.

So there we go, can’t wait for the completion of the project!

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