11 November 2002 – Development company, Leighton Holdings Ltd, is preparing to determine the viability of building the world’s first solar power generation tower, in a project worth up to $A1bn ($562.9m).

Leighton has signed an agreement to build the station with listed renewable energy group EnviroMission Ltd. Leighton is to establish whether the tower, tipped to be one kilometre high and the world’s largest engineered structure, is economically viable. “What’s involved (is) getting a very strong view on the capital cost,” said EnviroMission chief executive Roger.

“No one’s ever built one before.” The study would also involve improving and finalising materials, and forecasting the nature of the income stream. “There’s any number of people who’d be buying the power because it’s a large amount of green power,” Davey said.

He said the companies expected to pinpoint other income sources for the construction other than power, including tourism, telecommunications and agriculture. Once the viability study was completed, in an expected three to six months, Leighton would take an equity position in the project and participate in final design and actual construction.

Leighton has the option to convert up to $A1m in capital expenditure into a stake in EnviroMission. Mr Davey said signing Leighton up to the project added to its credibility. “People have always asked, can it be done or does it work?” Mr Davey said. “Well, the involvement of Leighton certainly shows it can be built.”

The tower, to be located near Buronga in NSW’s south-west, would be surrounded by a solar collector 7km in diameter. The tower allows the hot air produced under the collector to drive the turbines and generate the electricity, and is expected to provide power for some 200 000 homes, abating 700 000 tonnes of greenhouse gases emissions annually.

Energen Global Inc, a technology outfit with a stake in EnviroMission, provided the exclusive licence to the German-designed solar tower technology in Australia.