SolFocus is working with developer Ingenero to install a 235-kilowatt power station using 28 SolFocus Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) solar arrays to furnish solar power at Alice Springs Airport in the Northern Territory of Australia. The Alice Springs Airport power station will deliver approximately 600 megawatt-hours of electricity directly to the airport’s internal electricity grid, which is roughly 28 percent of the airport’s electricity demand and equivalent to the power used in about 70 homes in Alice Springs. 

In 2007-2008, Australia received only 0.1 percent of its energy from solar power, mostly in the form of solar water heating (Australian Energy Resource Assessment).  Despite Australia's abundant solar, wind, and tidal resources, the country is run primarily on coal.  But Australia is a natural home for CPV, with its high solar insolation, ample real estate and water resource issues that might make CPV a better fit than thirsty solar thermal plants.  

"Alice Springs is the ideal location for CPV technology and Ingenero is proud to be able to bring SolFocus technology to Australia for the first time," said Rodger Whitby, General Manager of Generation at Ingenero.

The headlines in solar are dominated by crystalline silicon, cadmium telluride and other thin films, and solar thermal technologies.  CPV remains challenged by price pressure and lack of scale.  There is a modest ecosystem of CPV system vendors, chip startups, lens manufacturers and balance of system firms waiting for the CPV market to kick in.  The cumulative global installed base of CPV is in the tens of megawatts, while conventional PV will reach or exceed ten gigawatts deployed in 2010 according to some analyst estimates. In short, CPV has a lot of catching up to do.

This CPV installation is helped along by $1.132 million from the Australian government's $94 million Solar Cities program.  That sum will pay for half of the project's total cost.  Construction is expected to be complete by the end of the third quarter, 2010.

According to Nancy Hartsoch, SolFocus VP of Sales and Marketing, "The cost of energy for this project at Alice Springs with a solar resource of 7.2 DNI, is around 17-18 cents/kWh.  This is a higher cost of energy due to the high cost of capital in Australia.  If this project were installed in the southwest US, the LCOE would be around 13-14 cents, without incentives."