WA inventor helps miners switch to clean energy

Magellan Power (Magellan) is a clean energy enabler. Its power conversion units – including inverters and batteries – turn energy from the sun or wind into power that’s readily usable.

By finding ways to do this efficiently, Magellan is helping mining companies in Western Australia’s Pilbara region transition to renewable energy. Joint projects with universities help Magellan develop its technologies. The company’s products are 100% made in Australia. As a pioneer in its field, Magellan has begun exporting to Asia.

Making renewable energy viable in remote locations

Masoud Abshar is an engineer and an entrepreneur. He founded Magellan in Perth in 1991. His expertise is in power conversion equipment, and Magellan has developed technologies that make clean energy a practical proposition.

‘I wanted to be innovative and create things,’ says Abshar, Magellan’s Chief Executive. ‘At that time, there wasn’t a lot of equipment manufacturing in Perth. I’ve built the company into a 70 -strong workforce. Today, we build back-up power systems, renewable energy units and power storage.

‘Our focus is this: we enable companies to make the jump to clean energy – especially in remote locations.’

Magellan has created 3 transformational technologies.

‘First, we have devised a new way to recharge electric vehicles from batteries at mine sites,’ says Abshar. ‘We call it the Pilbara EV charger. It means mining companies can use solar energy to power huge mining trucks. It’s a revolution for the industry in Western Australia.’

The second innovation is the ‘Solar Smoother’. This device makes it easier to integrate solar power with standalone grids. This ultra-smart device scans the skies, predicts cloud cover then pre-empts a response from the back-up generator. This reduces outages.

‘Third, we can transform the lifecycle of lithium batteries,’ says Abshar. ‘We’ve re-engineered how battery cells work and our maintenance system extends battery life. Also, we repurpose the elements so spent lithium batteries don’t end up in landfill.’

Partnership with universities in Western Australia mean a steady pipeline of fresh innovation. The result is a rising tempo of industries, utilities and hospitals that can safely transition to renewable energy.

Power to the mining industry

Clean energy is a huge challenge for heavy industry. For example, Australia’s mining and resources industry includes enormous, power-hungry operations in remote locations. This is especially true of the northwest coast of Australia.

‘The energy is already there,’ says Abshar. ‘The Pilbara region is one of the best sources of solar energy in the world. We might as well use it.’

Magellan has developed power conversion units that use solar power to charge specially constructed batteries. These solar-powered batteries deliver a near-instantaneous recharge to mine-site equipment, including trucks, excavators and even conveyor belts.

‘Our equipment means we can deliver a charge at a much faster rate than vehicles get from the grid,’ says Abshar. ‘This encourages mining companies to make the switch from diesel-hungry vehicles. What we are doing is aiding the transition to electrically powered mine sites.’

Three men in yellow high visibility vests standing in front of metal cabinets containing electrical equipment


Magellan’s Solar Smoother

Abshar says the Solar Smoother technology is unique. Magellan developed it in partnership with universities in Western Australia.

‘There’s a big challenge using solar energy for standalone off-grid systems — intermittency,’ he says. ‘Typically, these systems mix solar panels with a diesel generator. But as soon as a cloud obscures the sun, the system can’t compensate fast enough and power drops. Also, putting sudden demand on generators wears them out.’

The Solar Smoother detects approaching clouds. This triggers a gradual reduction in the contribution from solar panels. This means the generator picks up the load before there’s a sudden dip in power output.

‘We developed and integrated all the technology,’ says Abshar. ‘The camera unit picks up every cloud and assesses speed and direction. Then it calculates when the shadow will fall on the solar panels. This smooths out the peaks and troughs. It gives fragile grids stability.’

Austrade helps navigate Magellan into Vietnam

Austrade is helping Magellan take its ground-breaking technologies into overseas markets. The services Austrade delivers include business matching and market insights.

‘We went to Vietnam on a trade visit led by Austrade,’ says Abshar. ‘There is a lot of potential for battery technology in Vietnam: there is plenty of solar energy but not much storage.

‘Austrade helped us make connections in Vietnam. As a result, we have already signed a memorandum of understanding with an electric vehicle maker. Austrade is involved wherever we go.’

Working with Australian universities

Magellan’s technology is progressing quickly. This is partly thanks to multiple projects with Australian universities.

The company is currently working with Edith Cowan University on a project to help repurpose the heavy batteries used in electric vehicles.

‘There is a culture of working with universities in Australia,’ says Abshar. ‘Our customers give us ideas in mining and utilities, we take them to universities, and then we lead a project.

‘It’s great for academics to work on theory that’s going to have a fantastic application. What’s amazing is when an idea becomes a commercial reality.’