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Reaching for the stars

Horizon Power has secured $15.5 million through Royalties for Regions and the Science and Innovation portfolios to construct the first stage of an off-grid hybrid power station at CSIRO's Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO).

Horizon Power has been selected by CSIRO to design, build, operate and maintain the 1 megawatt (MW) solar-diesel station which will provide power for a world-class scientific facility located in regional Western Australia.

The Murchison site, on Boolardy Station approximately 400 km north east of Geraldton, will be used as the location for CSIROs Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope project - a project that aims to demonstrate Australia’s capability to host the largest radio telescope on the planet, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

ASKAP will pioneer and test revolutionary new technologies in areas of electrical engineering, digital systems, computing and signal transport, and provide key results and techniques to the international SKA design and development effort.

The ASKAP and SKA telescopes will be vastly more sensitive than any of the present day instruments available and will give us remarkable insights into the formation of the early Universe, including the emergence of the first stars, galaxies and other structures.

If Australia's bid to host the SKA is successful, Australia will need to build further power stations to power the radio telescopes required for this project.

Frank Tudor, Horizon Power's Managing Director Elect, said Horizon Power is excited to be working with CSIRO on an international project that will use innovative science and commercial technologies.

"Next generation technology that meets the project's radio-quiet requirements will provide 24/7 power for radio astronomy projects at the MRO.

"The project draws on Horizon Power's experience to deliver remote renewable hybrid power solutions and develops a capability that can be leveraged to other projects," he said.

Energy Minister Peter Collier said the opportunities for Horizon Power and the whole of Western Australia if Australia is selected to host the SKA cannot be underestimated.

"The eyes of the world will be on Western Australia as ASKAP gets underway and it is a huge achievement for Horizon Power to have been selected as the power provider for this project.

"I know Horizon Power has been working on this project for some years and I look forward to seeing the project come to fruition and Horizon Power being part of this very significant project for Western Australia and indeed, Australia," he said.