Air­ports turn so­lar

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Peter de Krui­jff

It seems that it’s al­ways sunny in the Pil­bara as a bur­geon­ing so­lar revo­lu­tion takes off at the re­gion’s air­ports.

On Mon­day, a cer­e­mo­nial sod turn­ing was held on the grounds of the Kar­ratha Air­port where a 16,000sqm so­lar farm will be built to pro­vide about 25 to 30 per cent of the air­port’s power.

The so­lar pho­to­voltaic farm will pro­vide 1MW of so­lar energy and has a switch-on date ear­marked as the end of the first quar­ter next year.

The Kar­ratha pro­ject has taken 930 days from its in­cep­tion to the shovel cer­e­mony, ac­cord­ing to devel­oper David Web­ster, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Web­ster Power.

Mr Web­ster has been in­volved in de­vel­op­ing in­fra­struc­ture in Aus­tralia for 30 years and was part of the Ord River Dam pro­ject near Ku­nunurra.

He said it seemed ob­vi­ous so­lar energy should be used in the re­gion and as the Kar­ratha Air­port grew so, too, could the so­lar farm.

The pro­ject is likely to be up and run­ning be­fore a $10 mil­lion plant which aims to pro­vide 65 per cent of Port Hed­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port’s power needs from July 2016.

The Hed­land pro­ject is funded by the Town of Port Hed­land and the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s Aus­tralian Re­new­able Energy Agency, which is con­tribut­ing a $6 mil­lion.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the projects, it ap­pears, is the use of Cloud Pre­dic­tive Tech­nol­ogy, de­vel­oped by com­pany MPower, for the Kar­ratha site.

Mr Web­ster said if a big cloud was to go over the farm, the sys­tem could ba­si­cally “smooth” out the energy sup­ply to the grid so the energy pro­vided would slowly de­crease in­stead of go­ing cold as soon as the cloud went over.

Global so­lar provider SunEdi­son is back­ing Web­ster Energy as well as ARENA, which is putting for­ward $2.3 mil­lion in hopes of gain­ing knowl­edge as to whether CPT makes so­lar gen­er­a­tion cheaper.

SunEdi­son Aus­tralia WA busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager Wally Borovac said there were con­ver­sa­tions be­ing had about other op­por­tu­ni­ties in the North West but these were em­bry­onic.

Mem­ber for the Pil­bara Bren­don Grylls said a few years ago ac­cess to ca­pac­ity on the power grid was a haz­ard to growth so it was good to see this kind of pro­ject.

City of Kar­ratha Mayor Peter Long said the pro­ject had been a long time com­ing.

The City has a con­tract to ac­cess the power gen­er­ated by the so­lar farm for the air­port for the next 21 years.

The farm has the ca­pa­bil­ity to pro­vide power to the town’s elec­tric­ity grid, but it is un­likely this will ever hap­pen.

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