A small Western Australian engineering firm is working on a design for a mobile hybrid diesel-solar power plant to serve the mining industry.

Kalgoorlie-based Skunkworks Engineering is tackling a frequent problem hindering the viability of some smaller mining operations, which are often too far from the electricity grid and require diesel power plants. Skunkworks is working with associates in Australia and abroad to develop a 5-megawatt plant.

The reduction to cost could be significant - with plans for the plant to be more than twice as efficient as a traditional diesel unit meaning a small mine could run for longer and at a higher profit. The proposed plant would also be completely re-locatable at the end of an operation, allowing the owner to pick it up and move it to the next venture.

Skunkworks CEO Shorty Ryan says: “Yes, there'll be some footings that you leave in the ground and some concrete and bits and pieces that you leave behind. but 85-90 per cent of the plant will be just a big Meccano set. Unbolt, put it on the trucks and take it to the next job.”

The Skunkworks firm is a small but accomplished engineering firm in regional WA, whose bill claims the company “deliver on the jobs that no one has the time for or those projects which require an out of the box solution”, the name comes from an American Air Force group which designed the U-2 and F-22 jet among other aircraft.