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Solar thermal plant to be built in Port Augusta


A long wished-for solar thermal plant for Port Augusta will be built at a cost of $650 million after the State Government awarded the plant’s private backers its contract to supply the government’s power needs.

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Premier Jay Weatherill announced today that Californian company SolarReserve would build a 150MW solar thermal plant near the iron triangle town – the biggest plant of its kind in the world, and able to supply about 5 per cent of the state’s annual energy needs.

SolarReserve will fund the project, which it said would create up to 4000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 50 ongoing positions. The company would open an office in Adelaide at the end of this year, which would become its permanent Australian headquarters.

Work will begin on the plant, to be built about 30km north of Port Augusta, in 2018, with completion expected in 2020.

The SolarReserve bid for the government tender was the lowest-cost option of the shortlisted offers, Weatherill said, with the Government to pay no more than $78/MWh.

The plant – to be called Aurora – will produce synchronous renewable energy that can be dispatched into the grid at any time, including when the sun isn’t shining.

Weatherill said the plant would also improve grid security and stability.

“Renewable technologies are now cheaper and importantly renewables are now providing certainty and stability to the market,” Weatherill said.

“This is a massive game-changer for the energy market in this country.”

The Government has entered into a 20-year agreement with SolarReserve to supply the state with energy.

Earlier this year, South Australian senator Nick Xenophon managed to secure an offer of a $110 million concessional loan for the project from the Federal Government in exchange for his support for company tax cuts.

Xenophon said today the project would be “transformational” for Port Augusta, while strengthening grid security and bringing down power prices in SA.

The plant will use 12,000 billboard sized mirrors to concentrate sunlight on to a central receiver at the top of a 220-metre high tower. That process heats molten salt to 565 degrees celsius with the heat used to generate steam, drive a turbine and produce 150 megawatts of electricity, even when the sun doesn’t shine.

The group that has lobbied for the project for more than five years, Repower Port Augusta, welcomed the announcement, saying it showed what could be achieved when all political parties worked together for a positive outcome.

“Alongside the South Australian Government, the Federal Liberal Government, the SA Liberals, Nick Xenophon, the Greens and the Federal ALP have all supported solar thermal in Port Augusta as a sensible solution for SA,” said Repower’s Dan Spencer.

“This decision shows what can be achieved when our representatives stop using renewables as a political football and get on with making an orderly transition to clean, renewable energy happen for all Australians.”

Source: SolarReserve

Weatherill said the plant would enhance SA’s reputation as a leader in renewable energy.

“We are supporting this nation-leading renewable energy project because it will deliver more competition into our energy market and put downward pressure on power prices for households and businesses,” he said.

“The Port Augusta story is a stark example of the transition of the South Australian economy, with the closure of a dirty coal fired power station, and now the commissioning of this world leading renewable energy project.”

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said his company’s technology was an excellent fit for the SA electricity system.

“Aurora will provide much-needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” he said.

SA Deputy Opposition Leader Vickie Chapman said the project was welcome and had been pursued for some time by the Liberals.

“The crying shame of this announcement today is that it isn’t with a transition arrangement with the closure of (the coal-fired power station at) Port Augusta,” Chapman said.

– with AAP


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