Policy & Market


'Solar chimney' group soars as investor backs US build

Shares in EnviroMission surged 30% on the Australian stock exchange after the developer confirmed an unnamed investor has agreed to back construction of its first solar “updraft tower” power station in the US state of Arizona.

The financing commitment is subject to due diligence by the solar company, which it expects to finalise “in a matter of weeks”, says Roger Davey, EnviroMission chief executive.

The proposed equity-finance would see the investor take a majority interest in the solar tower – located in La Paz county, Arizona – without diluting EnviroMission’s issued capital.

EnviroMission previously secured a power-purchase agreement (PPA) with the Southern Californian Public Power Authority (SCPPA) to deliver output from the first of two planned 200MW solar tower developments.

Under the deal, SCPPA will have the right to purchase the solar tower facility at either the tenth or 30th year of operation at “fair market value”. SCPPA has also taken up the option to buy power from the second 200MW tower, once built.

Solar updraft towers generate power from air that is heated to high temperature beneath the membrane-covered collectors. It then passes through turbines as it is drawn up the chimney-like tower.

By the close of trade on the Australian Stock Exchange, EnviroMission shares were up 29% at A$0.036.

The company does not currently have any plans to build solar towers in Australia, but indicates interest in projects specifically aimed at generating power for remotely-located miners.

Davey tells Recharge that to date no incentive programme capable of attracting investment to a large-scale renewable energy infrastructure development has materialised in Australia.

But the company is eyeing potential markets in Western Australia and South Australia, which will specifically engage the mining sector to explore the role EnviroMission’s solar tower technology could have in meeting carbon-reduction and energy-generation requirements, Davey says.