Portable hybrid power plant set to change regional energy use

A portable hybrid power plant being trialled by a Sydney-based engineering firm could transform the renewable energy landscape in regional and remote Australia. In April 2014, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) committed $410,000 to supporting a feasibility study into a portable hybrid solar/diesel power plant that has the potential to change the renewable energy landscape in regional and remote Australia.

“The permanent and long-term nature of solar installations is currently a giant barrier to their use off-grid,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said. “One of ARENA’s key priorities is to drive the uptake of renewable energy in off-grid locations and a portable hybrid system, constructed off-site and easily transportable, could be a real game-changer for off-grid locations in Australia and beyond.

“A system, constructed off-site, that is stackable, storable and quick to set up and break down carries numerous benefits for regional and remote communities and industries.

“In addition to the untapped potential for export and use in emergency situations, it offers a cheaper, more cost-effective energy source as well as the ability to unshackle off-grid locations from a sole reliance on trucked-in diesel which is costly, dangerous and subject to variable weather conditions.”

The project will be undertaken by Sydney-based engineering firm Laing O’Rourke, whose Managing Director Cathal O’Rourke said the company will leverage its Design for Manufacture and Assembly approach to provide an innovative solution that reduces operating costs and provides a cleaner energy alternative.

“Construction and engineering must break away from traditional processes if it is to evolve and deliver projects quickly, safely and more sustainably,” O’Rourke contended.

Laing O’Rourke’s Clean Technology Leader Dr Will Rayward-Smith said the business is well placed to support renewable energy in off-grid locations.

“Our Select Plant Hire subsidiary currently manages hundreds of diesel generators across Australia, which can potentially be augmented with this new plant,” he said. “As specialists in major remote and regional projects, we have an opportunity to harness vast amounts of solar energy at these sites.”

For more information, go to http://arena.gov.au

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