Laing O’Rourke SunSHIFT is celebrating a double endorsement for its groundbreaking off-grid technology after winning a prestigious global investment competition and securing a further A$2.1m of funding support.
The technology, now in its final stages of development, is the world’s first large-scale, modular solar-diesel hybrid plant that can be manufactured off-site, efficiently installed on-site, and be easily packed up and redeployed. Ideal for remote, off-grid areas, the technology clinched the top prize at the 2017 Fire Awards, held at Bloomberg’s Future of Energy Summit in New York in April.
The awards recognise emerging businesses that have the potential to unlock significant new flows of finance for clean energy. SunSHIFT general manager Dr Will Rayward-Smith says the award is “a major endorsement of what we’re doing at SunSHIFT”.
The start-up, Laing O’Rourke’s newest subsidiary, is now focussed on delivering its first MW scale projects in Australia and working with the Fire Awards implementation team to refine its global market entry strategy.
Strategic collaboration to support innovation
What began as an idea to reduce diesel fuel consumption for power generation at Laing O’Rourke’s remote construction sites has, with ARENA’s support, advanced into an entirely new type of power generation asset.
“Shortly after we first had the idea we met with ARENA and pitched it,” says Will. “From there, the relationship has grown and taken us through the steps of feasibility and product development, minimum viable product demonstration and now pre‑commercial deployment of our commercial product. And now we have the opportunity to extend the collaboration to work with some of the world’s leading Climate Finance experts as a result of our success in New York. ”
The technology will allow consumers in the temporary power market to move towards a low-cost, low‑risk and low-carbon energy future. Users can start small, with just a single 1-megawatt (MW) block alongside an existing generation facility. Over time, as the economics of solar and energy storage improve – and the user becomes more comfortable with hybridisation – the solar photovoltaic (PV) penetration can be increased gradually with additional 1MW blocks.
“One of the primary obstacles hindering the uptake of solar PV in remote locations is the disconnection between the short-term and variable energy requirements typical of these areas, and the 25-year life of a fixed solar PV plant,” says Anthony Dobb, client advisor – mining and knowledge sharing at ARENA. “Redeployable solar PV is one way to remedy this roadblock and, to date, is a relatively untapped market, not only in Australia, but globally.”
SunSHIFT’s vision is to create a fleet of sustainable assets and deploy them globally to augment diesel power, redirecting expenditure typically used for fuel. “Initially, our systems will be sized to displace 10-20% of diesel fuel consumption, but over time, as the economics of batteries improves, we will be able to grow our systems through additional 1MW blocks and displace 50% and beyond,” Will says.