World-First : Clean Energy Powering High Tech Astronomy

The CSIRO is partnering with small Australian firm Energy Made Clean (EMC) to develop the world’s first hybrid renewable power generation installation for radio astronomy of its kind.

The innovative off-grid clean energy system will power the CSIRO’s Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRO), located 350 kilometres north-east of Geraldton, in Western Australia.

The MRO is home to CSIRO’s new Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder and Curtin University-led Murchison Widefield Array. It is also set to host the future Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope.

The power station, currently in its commissioning phase, consists of 5,280 silicon solar panels and the world’s largest lithium ion storage battery.

CSIRO executive director of national facilities, David Williams, said the MRO’s remote location was the impetus for the development of the world-first renewable energy system.

“The telescope site is 300 kilometres from power so we had to build our own power source,” he said. The CSIRO said modelling indicated the use of a solar photovoltaic system with a battery could cut diesel consumption by 700,000 litres per year, amounting to a $500,000 annual cost saving.

It is estimated the renewable power system also has the potential to save between 1,700 and 2,200 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

EMC chief executive officer John Davidson said the system had other applications and the company was exploring opportunities for enclosing clean energy equipment in shielded enclosures.

“The engineering expertise we have developed will carry us into future projects,” he said.

When the company started working with the CSIRO on this Murchison project, it had 10 employees but after being awarded the project from an open tender process, the workforce has grown to 50 employees.

During the life of the project, EMC was acquired by ASX-listed company Carnegie Clean Energy and now has 100 employees.