A consortium including Leighton subsidiary (LEI), Thiess, a market leader in critical infrastructure construction and utility services and Silex Systems Ltd (SLX), an ASX listed company with world-class expertise and capability in solar technology, today publicly confirmed its interest in constructing the nation’s first solar photovoltaic (PV) power station as part of the Commonwealth’s Solar Flagship Program.
The announcement coincides with NSW Premier Kristina Keneally’s announcement that the NSW Government will contribute $120 million in funding to the project. This is in addition to the $1.5 billion commitment to the Solar Flagships Program announced by the Federal Government in 2009 which will include two PV and two solar thermal power stations. The Federal Government is expected to announce a short-list of three to four contenders for the PV power stations in the near future.
Chris Wilks, Executive Director of Silex subsidiary and consortium partner SilexSolar, said Australia has the home-grown capacity to build the new power station which will ultimately be one of the largest in the world. “The Thiess-SilexSolar consortium offers a unique all Australian bid for Solar Flagships, which will see industry research, world class development and manufacturing capability, and the consequent IP that is developed during the project, stay here in Australia for the lasting benefit of all Australians.” he said.
Mr Wilks said the Thiess-Silex Solar proposal includes the use of solar PV technology, the fastest growing energy technology in the world, and will have an expected average output of approximately 400GWh/yr. The consortium contains Australia’s only significant manufacturer of PV cells and panels, which would be wholly made at the SilexSolar plant at Homebush.
More than 1300 Australian based jobs would be created. Thiess Chief Executive Officer, Australian Operations, Nev Power said that if successful in its bid, the partnership will ensure the Solar Flagships project will directly benefit the Australian solar and construction industry, rather than seeing investment and expertise going offshore through projects put forward by off-shore companies. “The Solar Flagships project is not only vital to developing large scale utility level solar power, but also to kick starting the local manufacturing industry, so Australia can get its share of the $40 billion worldwide solar PV industry,” Mr Power said.
The Thiess-Silex Solar consortium plans to construct a regional manufacturing facility for the assembly of panels close to the project site, maximising local content and employment. This would create an assembly and distribution hub for SilexSolar’s Australian made solar products to be delivered to the central and eastern states. Mr Wilks said many of SilexSolar’s staff have over 25 years in the industry including experience in Europe and the US, and have previously developed and delivered smaller solar power projects in Australia and South East Asia.
“We are investing heavily in the ingenuity of the Australian workforce and are well placed to commercialise Australian intellectual property rather than letting it go overseas. To aid in this we have our own Research and Development facility and a strong partnership with the ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence at the University of NSW, the key centre of Australian solar energy research. “Our already established Homebush R&D facility and manufacturing plant, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, provides the perfect base to facilitate and house the growth in manufacturing and solar expertise this project will generate.” Mr Wilks said