SolarReserve expands Down Under

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The Santa Monica, California-based solar power project developer, SolarReserve said on Tuesday it was expanding its international operations into Australia with the opening of a new office in Perth.

The company "is pursuing both large-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV) projects, with an emphasis towards opportunities in the off-grid mining sector," it said.

Explaining the move, SolarReserve said in a statement, "Energy is one of the biggest financial costs for mines — one that impacts competitiveness given the escalating and uncertain prices of fossil fuels. With a focus on reducing costs and operational risks, resource companies in Australia are seizing the opportunity to transform the economics of their business by replacing a volatile energy source with one that is fixed for the life of the facility and sustainable — the sun."

The company added that Australia boasted the highest average solar radiation per square meter of any continent in the world and the country’s solar resource could fuel a renewable energy solution that could deliver significant savings and predictable energy costs to mining operations in the country.

"In Australia, the best solar resources are commonly found in remote areas where mines operate, presenting the off-grid mining sector with a substantial opportunity to offset the high price of electricity generation in these remote locations with a solar energy alternative," said SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith.

"In Western Australia alone, there are more than 1,000 operating mines — many of which are powered by high-priced diesel fuel. SolarReserve’s world-leading solar thermal technology with integrated molten salt storage offers a cost-effective, reliable and most importantly, a baseload supply of electricity that is critical to mining operations."

SolarReserve said the integrated molten salt energy storage system enables firm, reliable electricity to be generated on-demand similarly to that of conventional fossil fuel-burning power facilities, but without the associated harmful emissions and price volatility.

Smith added that in the face of impending policy decisions by the Australian government related to renewable energy and carbon emissions, solar energy for the mining sector was a win-win for business and the environment.

SolarReserve has tapped Daniel Thompson as director of development for Australia.

He will be based in the Perth office and will lead SolarReserve’s development activities in the region. Thompson, who has more than 10 years of energy sector experience in power generation and renewable energy project development in Australia, previously held management positions at Verve Energy and Western Power Corporation.

"We are thrilled to have Daniel join our team," said Tom Georgis, senior vice president of development. "His deep industry and market knowledge combined with more than a decade of successful development of renewable projects in Australia will help SolarReserve capitalize on the enormous opportunities that exist in the region for our 24×7 reliable power supply solutions."

At the inaugural Resources and Renewable Energy Technology Forum, held last month in Perth, representatives from Australia’s mining industry met with renewable energy companies and heard first-hand accounts from international companies that had integrated renewable energy into mining operations, including Rio Tinto in Canada, Abengoa in Chile and inverter manufacturer SMA in South Africa.