Australian mining 'next solar frontier'

8th Jul 2013

As solar PV reaches higher penetration levels nationwide, the solar power industry is looking for new areas of investment – and one expert believes the mining sector provides lucrative opportunities.

Writing for Reneweconomy, editor Giles Parkinson said areas where resources extraction is in full flow offer the solar sector with various avenues for expansion.

"Mining and remote locations are looking like the most promising market opportunity for solar thermal technologies in the coming years, particularly given the excess capacity on the main grid in Australia," he explained.

Other factors influencing the sector are hesitancy on the part of utilities companies to commit to power purchase agreements and wind power's dominance in meeting Renewable Energy Target requirements.

This means that while these markets aren't closed to solar power, manufacturers and installers may wish to explore opportunities in which they can assert more influence.

And Parkinson is not the only one to point out opportunities in the mining sector, with chief executive of the Clean Energy Council David Green recently highlighting the advantages of tapping into the industry.

"Most mine sites in Australia are in remote locations teeming with renewable energy resources," he wrote for Reneweconomy last month.

"Australia is the sunniest country in the world and arguably the largest island in the world."

However, Australian companies may wish to move fast if they want to take advantage, with interest already being shown by overseas firms.

For example, Santa Monica-based SolarReserve is already constructing a 110 MW solar tower in the Nevada desert, but it intends to scale down the technology for use in Australia.

A 20 to 30 MW facility would be enough to meet the demands of Australian miners in off-grid or remote locations, the company claimed, adding that it will be opening an office in Perth later this year in an effort to capitalise on industry interest.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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