Airports turn solar
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.