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Port Augusta pushes for federal support for solar tower power plant

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Representatives of the Port Augusta community in South Australia have pushed the federal Coalition government for funding support for a proposed 110MW solar tower power plant with storage to replace the coal-fired generator that is scheduled to close in less than two months.

Members of Repower Port Augusta took their message to Canberra on Wednesday, pushing for up to $100 million in grant funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to help ensure that the solar tower plant, which features molten storage and could operate around the clock, will be built.

The team said they got a “positive response” and “there was much interest” from the offices of prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, environment minister Greg Hunt, and energy minister Josh Frydenberg, but they did not get to meet Turnbull or either of the ministers in person. They did meet Labor climate change spokesman Mark Butler.

“We had the opportunity to meet with the offices of key decision makers including the Prime Minister and Environment Ministers,” said Lisa Lumsden, a spokesperson for Repower Port Augusta. “These were productive discussions and there is definitely interest in the need to do something for our region.”

The group is targeting ministers because any funding of the more than $50 million from ARENA requires ministerial support. ARENA is providing $100 million in funds to a range of large scale solar projects, but these will only be solar PV, not solar thermal (towers) with storage.

There are no large-scale solar tower with storage plants in Australia, although several have and are being built in Europe, north and southern Africa, and north and southern America.

Costs are expected to fall quickly once more plants are built and Australia is considered to be a prime market for solar tower and storage, because of its excellent solar resources and increasing amounts of wind and solar PV, particularly in South Australia.

port augusta canberra

The delegation said brought a banner with 1500 signatures from the local community to demonstrate the community support in Port Augusta and had an accompanying letter of support from the Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group an alliance of the Port Augusta, Whyalla and Port Pirie city councils.

The Port Augusta coal station closing in eight weeks now, and US company SolarReserve has said it is looking to build solar thermal near Port Augusta.

“Quite a few jobs including my own will be disappearing in eight weeks time. I decided that this project was my time to stand up and not just talk about doing something, but to actually try to do something about it,” said Gary Rowbottom, the chair of Repower Port Augusta and a worker at the coal power station for 17 years.
“The Australian Renewable Energy Agency could supply the funding needed and with the South Australian Government seeking to buy low-carbon energy there has never been a greater need or a better opportunity for solar thermal in Port Augusta to happen,” Rowbottom said.
“There’s a company that wants to build it and both the Federal and South Australian Governments have the policies in place that could make it happen but we need them to work together.”
The South Australian government has called a tender for around 150MW of clean energy to help it source all its own power needs, but has left open the option to sign a deal with an existing gas-fired station rather than a new solar plant or wind farm.
The result of the tender is not expected for several months, possibly around the time of the actual closure of the Northern Power Station, now scheduled for around May 8.

  

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  • Zvyozdochka

    As much as it truly pains me to say it, because I think CSP is glorious, the father of solar-heat trapping, Dr David Mills believes CSP will now never approach the cost of solar PV w/batteries.

    • solarguy

      I think he’s wrong. Because molten salt storage appears to very cost effective, $30/kw built, man that’s cheap! CST produces more than twice the power of PV for the area.
      And I believe MS storage can be used by PV and wind too! So batteries on a large scale, well no.

      • Zvyozdochka

        I hope you’re right.

        • solarguy

          I can’t be 100% sure as I’m going on info supplied to me, but I’m pretty sure it’s correct.

      • Jo

        Where did you get the $30/kW built from? This is too low. maybe it is just the cost of the salt storage but nothing else.

        You forgot to consider the low efficiency of the conversion of heat difference into electrical energy via steam turbine and generator. At a temperature of 540ºC ( https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwi59MCh0cfLAhWk5KYKHQkNC0gQFgguMAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ises.org%2Ffileadmin%2Fuser_upload%2FPDF%2FMolten_salt_tower_plant_GA_Azcarraga.pdf&usg=AFQjCNFAf-U_-he_AMwx8cMc2ZfupFKMzw&sig2=1mIiPfHeEoSRaEpiJgiYcw ) and an assumed cooling temperature of 40ºC the theoretical maximum efficiency is a bit more than 60%, the real conversion efficiency is more like 40%.

        I am not against solar thermal, but we need to calculate with the correct numbers, or we will be disappointed by the outcome.

        I believe that unfortunately for solar thermal, David Mills (he is the Australian number 1 solar thermal expert) is right. Solar PV and now batteries will be so far down the cost curve that it will be near impossible to solar thermal to catch up.

        And while we speak about battery storage we must not forget pumped hydro storage which is still by far the cheapest form of energy storage.

        • solarguy

          Jo, I think it was right here on Renew Economy a couple of weeks ago, by Giles and I did a bit further digging on Solar Reserve’s Crescent Dunes 110MW plant in Nevada. Couldn’t be bothered arguing about efficiency’s. $3.63 million to store 110MW seems reasonable to me, when you consider $1,944/kwh for Li-Ion.
          Pumped Hydro is cheaper than batteries for sure, but it will cost a lot more than $30/kw built for excavation won’t it and you just can’t build it anywhere. CST has been coming down the cost curve and with heating salt, at much higher temperatures, than 540c, not water directly is far more efficient. Check it out.

          • Jo

            The cost of crescent dunes was 1 billion US$ ( http://www.power-technology.com/projects/crescent-dunes-solar-energy-project-nevada/ ) – about 300 times more than the $3.63 million you mentioned. Resulting in a cost of 9090 US$/kW. That is far higher than any PV system today even if you take the different capacity factor into account.

          • solarguy

            Jo I’m not talking about the cost of the complete plant, including the thousands heliostats, tower, etc. Just the cost of the hot tank(molten salt storage) component, BUILT.
            Crescent dunes is the very first of it’s kind as well which is always more expensive.

          • Jo

            And do you convert the heat from the salt into electricity for free?
            You must see the whole picture:
            The complete solar thermal plant with heat storage versus a large scale solar PV plant with battery or pumped hydro storage.

          • solarguy

            The big picture Jo, is that batteries on the MW scale can’t compete on cost compared to molten salt, neither can pumped hydro even though it’s cheaper than batteries.
            Molten salt can be placed in far more places than PH and can source any source of energy.
            Solar Reserve, the company that built Crescent Dunes has said they can build a CST plant in SA at a very competitive price. This has been mentioned here on Renew Economy.

  • Dennis Abbott

    Good on yer Lisa and Gary for taking this important message to Canberra. I believe a CST plant North of Pt Augusta would be a great asset for South Australia’s energy mix and the grid. I have read molten salt thermal storage is 20 to 100 times cheaper than battery storage (for large Mw). Whilst the sun rich regions of the world deploy CST, we need to establish an industry here to keep our home grown IP, engineers and technology from going overseas. Capex is presently higher for CST. However if that money is spent within Australia, ie: mirrors manufactured at Heliostat S.A , supply chain, construction. The Value of CST to our grid, energy mix and the economy is great.