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Mildura's solar plant excitement

Eager not to waste Australia's strong source of sunlight, on Wednesday 17 July, the hotly anticipated Mildura solar power plant was officially opened.

Victorian minister for resources and energy Nicholas Kotsiras was there for the official opening, which received funding through the state's Energy Technology Innovation Strategy (ETIS).

The ETIS was designed by the state government to drive advancement in renewable and low emission technologies. In particular, it aims to focus on developing and implementing technologies optimised to deliver cleaner, cost competitive electricity supply for Victoria.

A cutting-edge solar facility, the pilot plant located at Carwarp has a 1.5 MW capacity with over 40 concentrating photovoltaic dishes that collect solar energy. This produces enough electricity to power approximately 500 homes and is thought to be a stellar example of how clean and renewable energy sources can supply households and businesses with electricity.  Effective use of solar power also has the ability to shield households from volatile electricity prices.

Mildura's plant has harnessed innovative technology, which sees a unique system of mirrors in a dish track the sun as it moves throughout the day, concentrating light onto a highly efficient solar receiver. This allows a large amount of energy to be garnered for use from the sun.

A total of $10 million was committed to this second stage of the project by the state, while $5 million was committed to the first stage. The first stage of the project involved a 600 KW pilot plant located at Bridgewater.

Mr Kotsiras has given solar enthusiasts a new reason to be excited as he announced that the government was prepared to commit more funding to the project if the pilot met strict performance milestones.

"This would see the development of a large scale solar plant in Mildura that could potentially power more than 35,000 households," he said.

Not only does this mean more clean energy in the country's energy mix, but also that there will be more opportunities for skilled local employment.

Mr Kotsiras has described Mildura as "the perfect place for major solar development" due to its high level of solar concentration.

With innovations like the solar power plant at Mildura, the solar energy industry in Australia continues to thrive and is seen as a popular and relatively straightforward way to address the nation's energy needs while curbing harmful carbon emissions.

Posted by Charlie Moore