SolarReserve unviels plans for six ‘solar tower’ plants in SA

US company SolarReserve has unveiled plans to build six large solar tower power plants with molten salt storage in South Australia, but warns that this won’t happen unless it can get a contract and finance for the first project, near Port Augusta.

Kevin Smith, the CEO of the Santa Monica-based power company, unveiled the plans on Monday, meeting press, local councillors and the community in Port Augusta, before meetings with the state premier in Adelaide and federal politicians in Canberra later in the week.

SolarReserve says its six power plants will provide 660MW of reliable, dispatchable and zero emissions power – with a combined 880MWh of molten salt storage – that could account for one quarter of the state’s power needs, keep a lid on power prices, and provide 24,000 jobs during construction.

It says that its plants would provide as much reliable power as the current Heywood connector – and presumably any new ones being considered – and would be a more cost-effective option at scale than the battery storage alternatives being trialled by the likes of a virtual power plant by a major retailer.

But without a power purchase agreement for 20 years – and assistance from the federal or state government in the form of grants or concessional finance – it will be impossible to get the first project built, Smith says.

“This is a relatively new technology, and the first of its kind in Australia,” Smith told RenewEconomy in a phone interview from Port Augusta on Monday. “We need to get to get manufacturing facilities in place to bring the costs down.

“So our key message is that governments (when choosing technologies) need to look at the entire picture – not just the price of power, but other benefits, such as jobs, zero emissions power, and the opportunity to roll out multiple projects.”

Smith says SolarReserve would likely need either a grant from ARENA or finance from an institution such as the Clean Energy Innovation Fund to be able to offer a competitive price in its first SA project.

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

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