WorleyParsons gears up for A$1billion thermal solar power investment

Australian engineering services company WorleyParsons Ltd has indicated that the Pilbara region of Western Australia could be a location for a A$1 billion thermal solar power station.

The company has launched a study, backed by the likes of BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Plc, to find potential sites for advanced solar thermal power plants in Australia. According to a proposal from Worley Parsons, there are plans to construct 34 of the 250-megawatt solar power stations in Australia by 2020. Nine groups are funding a study to examine the potential development of the power stations.

The initial 250-megawatt unit could start up as early as 2011.

Peter Meurs, managing director of WorleyParsons' EcoNomics unit, said the company was undertaking a study, funded by resources giants including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside Energy, Wesfarmers Resources and Fortescue Metals, to find potential sites for its first 250-megawatt solar thermal power station, theoretically enough to power 100,000 houses.

Significantly, as Australia looks to cap carbon emissions with targets for renewable energy and the introduction of carbon credits, WorleyParsons said it aimed to deliver 40 percent of Australia's renewable energy needs with its 34 solar power plants.

"Photovoltaics have their place but it doesn't make commercial sense on a utility scale," Meurs said according to theage.com.au. "Ours is a much lower cost per megawatt with thermal solar and because thermal solar allows heat storage … we can produce power into the evening and in the early morning."

"The desert-type conditions, almost no cloud cover and a large amount of solar radiation make a strong case for solar in Australia, he said, adding that South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland were in the running to be the manufacturing base for the technology.