ARENA will fund study looking at solar power for Port Augusta, SA

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will commit $1 million to a feasibility study into the potential deployment of concentrating solar power (CSP) technology to replace or supplement energy produced by Port Augusta, SA‘s aging coal-fired power plants. The current owner of the 2 coal-fired plants located in Port Augusta, Alinta Energy, has previously expressed enthusiasm for the idea, which also enjoys substantial support from the local community. Alinta would contribute an additional $1.2m, while the South Australian government would give $132,000.

If constructed, as renewable energy advocates Beyond Zero Emissions100% Renewable Energy and Repower Port Augusta have campaigned for, the power plant would be the first of its kind to be built in Australia, although such plants are currently generating power in a number of other countries. The study would, in part, investigate whether CSP technology would be used on its own, or in a hybrid solution in conjunction with a conventional fossil fuel fired plant.

The feasibility study would not be completed until 2016, meaning that it would likely be years before the a CSP plant, if decided on, would be deployed. Repower Port Augusta Alliance chairpoerson Lisa Lumsden pointed out that the plans for the study, while encouraging, are just a first step. “Our community welcomes this study but we need our state politicians to make it clear if they will make funding available for the critical next stage: actually building a solar thermal plant,” she said. “This funding demonstrates just how serious and close the opportunity of solar thermal in Port Augusta is, but our politicians need to make sure we are ready to grasp it by committing funding to a project that will create jobs, clean air and be great for our state” Ms Lumsden said.

CSP or CST (concentrating solar thermal) technology differs from solar photovoltaic (PV) technology in that it collects and concentrates sunlight (often with mirrors) into a receptor which spins a turbine to generate electricity, much like a conventional coal, gas or nuclear plant. By contrast, solar PV technology most frequently comes in the form of panels or modules, which can easily be deployed in a wide range of sizes–from individual rooftops to utility-scale solar farms.

Top image from Terresole Energy via Beyond Zero Emissions.

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

James Martin II