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US-based solar tower and storage developer surprised of Australia’s “new coal” pursuits

US-based solar tower and storage developer SolarReserve has expressed surprise that Australia’s federal government is pursuing “new coal” plants, saying that solar towers with storage beats coal on just about all fronts.

Tom Georgis, the company’s head of international development, says solar towers and storage can match and beat coal on capability – providing baseload and flexible generation – and match new coal on cost, and provide zero emissions output as a bonus.

“This is just not a direction that financial markets are heading in,” Georgis told RenewEconomy in an interview on Tuesday, during a visit to Australia, where the company is hoping to build a $700 million, 110MW solar tower and storage facility in Port Augusta, and in other states too.

“In our opinion it is almost backward looking,” Georgis said, adding that carbon capture and storage in electricity generation is unproven and not cost-effective, and coal generation needs to take account of the impact of mining, and of emissions.

The Australian energy industry, including fossil fuel generators, have reacted to the Coalition’s push for new coal plants with a mixture of surprise and disbelief, saying any such plant is “uninvestable”.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has estimated costs at between $138/MWh and more than $200/MWh, and significantly higher with CCS. It and others say estimate emissions reductions are grossly over-estimated.

SolarReserve says its own technology costs are “well under ” coal, even without CCS. It has been coy about its costs in Australia, having never built a plant here before, although CEFC executive director Simon Brooker told a Senate inquiry this month that a cost of around $150/MWh was being talked about for a first of its kind plant. Costs would then fall quickly as others are built.

SolarReserve is believed to be participating in a South Australian government tender for 75 per cent of its electricity needs, competing mostly with new gas stations and existing mothballed ones. It has talked with both the CEFC and ARENA.

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Image Source Via:  SolarReserve.com

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Giles Parkinson

Giles Parkinson regularly contributes unique content to Solar Choice News. Giles is the founder and editor of clean energy industry news service RenewEconomy. He is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the founding editor of Climate Spectator.
Giles Parkinson