What's Next for the Aussie Solar Tower?
The Australian government’s decision to award Solar Systems a $A75 million (about $US57 million) to build the world’s largest solar power station in the Australian state of Victoria is a big setback for rival EnviroMission. The Melbourne company is seeking to build a 50-megawatt, 1,600-foot-high solar tower power plant in the state of New South Wales, just over the border from Victoria. EnviroMission had competed for the grant, which it was counting on to jump-start construction of the solar tower next year and attract additional investors. The grant, part of the Australian government’s Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund, is intended to give renewable energy companies enough cash to get their projects off the ground and demonstrate their technology’s feasibility on a large scale.
I chronicled EnviroMission’s six-year quest to build a solar tower on the edge of the Australian Outback in "Tower of Power," which appeared the August issue of Business 2.0. EnviroMission on Wednesday requested the Australian Stock Exchange suspend trading in its shares pending an announcement on Friday. Originally proposed as a 1-kilometer-high, 100-megawatt plant, the solar tower was redesigned with an eye to winning the government grant. EnviroMission CEO Roger Davey told me in late June that if the company lost the grant it would re-evaluate the tower’s design to ensure its commercial viability and would arrange alternative financing. Meanwhile, EnviroMission’s joint venture with Chinese investors to build a solar tower near Shanghai is proceeding.