Australia’s First Commercial Solar Power Plant, Revisited

Jon Capistrano
Jon Capistrano
January 20, 2017

The secrets behind Australia’s first commercial solar power plant are truly fascinating according to ABC News.

In 1979, the small town of White Cliffs in the far west of New South Wales was chosen as the site of a groundbreaking Australian National University project to show that the sun could power a remote town. At the time, there were no rooftop solar systems so the project was a trailblazer, but it also became the site of some unconventional work practices.

The solar farm is located about 250 kilometres east of Broken Hill, the $1.9 million-plant generated electricity from 1982 until 2005, using 2 different technologies. Initially, the solar thermal power station concentrated the sun’s energy in producing steam from water which was used to drive steam engines or generator systems.

In 1997, it was changed using the latest solar PV technology, with cells directly converting the concentrated sunlight to electricity.

But today the plant is open to tourists. The plant used to have teething issues, but it did put the technology on show and proved solar energy could power a remote community successfully.

The former plant is now overgrown and a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Old vehicles sit exactly where they were left when the plant was closed. The plant supplied a limited area of town – the hospital, school, 12 homes and post office which had previously relied on diesel generators. Each of the users got an allotment of 2 kilowatts of power.

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