Mobile Photovoltaic (PV) Plants May 2017
Want more free featured content?
Subscribe to Insights in Brief
Sunshift (Rutherford, Australia) is commercializing mobile photovoltaics (PV) plants as a service. Sunshift provides plant design, installation, operation, monitoring, and relocation of off-grid or grid-connected PV plants ranging from 50 kilowatts (kW) to multiples of 1 megawatt (MW) in capacity. The company claims that its container-size PV modules are by design easy to install, disassemble, and transport within several days. Sunshift's mobile PV plants are available to buy or lease; alternatively, users can purchase the electricity generated by its mobile PV plants through a power-purchase agreement. In April 2017, Sunshift received A$2.1 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to demonstrate the rapid deployment of a 1 MW mobile PV plant.
Small-scale mobile solar generators (with power capacities in the range of tens of kilowatts or less) exist on the market. Sunshift is unique in that it is targeting the large-scale temporary-power market with megawatt-scale mobile PV plants. Although PV plants have higher capital costs than have conventional combustion generators with equivalent output power, PV plants have no fuel costs. End users of temporary PV plants do not need to worry about future fuel-price volatility or costs associated with transporting fuel. The use of PV as a temporary-power solution can allow for more straightforward project planning when temporary power is necessary over a time scale of years. However, large-scale mobile PV plants can find use at only locations with sufficient available land space. In addition, the intermittency of PV-generated electricity makes mobile PV more suitable for use with other mobile power-generation technologies or possibly with battery-storage systems.
The cost of PV-generated electricity is now comparable with the cost of electricity produced by many types of combustion generators, making PV a promising contender in the temporary-power market. The multi-billion-dollar temporary-power market is growing and encompasses a range of industries, including construction, mining, manufacturing, energy, events, emergency and backup power, and defense. Continuing global industrialization will likely drive increasing demand for temporary power from the construction and energy industries, in particular. Temporary power solutions also find use in regions that lack reliable power grids and in regions undergoing grid-infrastructure repair.
PV could contribute toward decarbonizing the temporary-power industry. However, mobile PV plants face competition from other mobile low-carbon power-generation technologies. For example, in December 2016, TwingTec (Dübendorf, Switzerland) announced it is developing a mobile containerized wind turbine—TT100—that the company claims can generate up to 100 kW of electrical power. And a variety of mobile fuel-cell systems are available on the market.