What investment is being made in renewable energy solutions?

Australia is like many other countries under increasing pressure to improve its use of renewable energy technologies, but just how much investment is being made in this sector?

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has recently announced another round of funding, this time for the rollout of a large-scale, fully deployable solar-diesel hybrid power plant.

What will the plant consist of?

You might be asking yourself exactly what a solar-diesel hybrid power plant is. Well, it'll comprise of a series of container-sized modules which allow it to be easily transported and set up.

Laing O'Rourke will be responsible for the construction of the plant, as well as setting it up and packing it down.

It's hoped that because the plant can be transported it will reduce some of the barriers to the use of off-grid technologies that are faced by mining companies and other types of operation.

"A semi-portable hybrid system like this carries enormous potential - it may provide industries and communities in regional and remote locations with a viable renewable energy alternative and could equally be used to assist in international relief efforts," said ARENA Chief Executive Officer Ivor Frischknecht.

What capacity will the renewable technology have?

It's believed this renewable energy system will be capable of delivering around one megawatt of power using solar modules.

It'll be installed at Laing O'Rourke's 350-bed Combabula accommodation village in regional Queensland where it will provide power to those working on the construction of a major resource project.

Laing O'Rourke Managing Director Cathal O'Rourke explained how hundreds of diesel generators are currently being used across these sites. There's the potential for them to be improved through the use of renewable energy technology.

"As specialists in major remote and regional projects, we have an opportunity to harness vast amounts of solar energy at our projects, for a sustainable engineering solution," he noted.

ARENA will provide $450,000 of funding for the project, which is valued at $1.4 million during the pilot stages.

What other renewable energy projects are underway?

Although this is the most recent renewable energy project to receive funding, it's not the only one that's currently in the pipeline.

Construction of the biggest solar plant in Australia is currently underway in Nyngan, New South Wales and it's expected to generate 102 megawatts of power upon completion.

AGL and First Solar are the project developers as the site is spread across two locations - Nyngan and Broken Hill. The entire scheme is expected to generate 155 megawatts of power and cost in the region of $440 million.

Mr Frischknecht said: "ARENA is very pleased to be supporting this landmark project which, when complete will be Australia's largest solar power plant with the ability to generate enough renewable energy to power more than 33,000 homes each year."

Moree Solar Farm is another project to have received funding over recent weeks, with ARENA making $101.7 million available for its construction.

It is also on track to be one of the largest solar plants in the country once it's completed, as it'll be capable of providing electricity to around 15,000 homes in New South Wales.

One of the reasons this particular location has been chosen is its high levels of solar radiation and the ease of connecting the system to the national electricity grid.

It's the first large-scale solar plant in the country to use a single-axis horizontal tracking system, which means panels are able to follow the sun across the sky.

This enables them to capture the most sunlight and maximise power output, giving the project the best possible chance of success.

With renewable technology becoming more popular, who knows, it could lead to lower gas and electricity prices for all as dependence on the grid is reduced.

Posted by Jeremy Elliott