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Solar tower and storage still on cards for Port Augusta, as bid confirmed

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The possibility of a solar tower and storage facility being built in Port Augusta to replace the soon-to-be-closed coal plants remains on the cards, after the local MP confirmed that US company Solar Reserve had submitted a bid to the ACT government’s “next generation” solar option.

The idea of a solar tower power plant had been considered by Alinta Energy, but rejected after a feasibility study found it to be too expensive.

But Alinta’s findings – now used by nuclear proponents to further the case for their technology – were criticised by the industry as being way too conservative. Alinta said its base case for such technology was around $250/MWh, but brought this down to around $201/MWh. Spanish group Abengoa last week won an auction in Chile for “24 hour solar – presumably solar thermal plus storage – with a bid of $US97/MWh ($A135/MWh).

rsz_dawn-at-solarreserve-crescent-dunes-nevadaInstead, the solar tower technology developers have turned their focus to the ACT government tender, which received more than 30 proposals totalling 976MW of applications for what will likely be just one project of around 50MW.

Solar Reserve, which is building the 110MW Crescent Dunes facility in Nevada – the world’s biggest to date – and also building a similar plant in South Africa, had been cagey about its approach to the ACT auction.

However, Rowan Ramsey, the Federal member for Grey – the massive electorate that covers most of South Australia, including Port Augusta – told the local Port Augusta newspaper, The Transcontinental, after a recent visit to Crescent Dunes that Solar Reserve is, in fact, making a bid in the ACT auction.

He said the company has already purchased a site in Port Augusta and a tender with the nation’s capital could make the project reality.

Ramsey said any bid would likely need additional support from agencies such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. He also mentioned a power purchase agreement facilitated by the South Australia government, but the project would obtain one of those from the ACT government if it wins that tender.


Ramsey said he looked forward to discussing the issue with the new minister for innovation, the South Australian Senator Christopher Pyne, and environment minister Greg Hunt to “see if it is possible to elicit support from ARENA.”

Solar Reserve refused to confirm its tender for the ACT government tender, which remains confidential. A decision is expected to be made in the next few months.

Alinta is closing its remaining coal fired power station by March, 2016, leaving the state without coal-fired power. South Australia currently sources more than 40 per cent of its annual demand from wind and solar.  

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  • Ian Franklin

    In addition to inflating the costs of a solar tower, they claimed that they needed an IRR of at least 12%, This speaks volumes about their morality.

  • onesecond

    The lies of Alinta will be rewarded. Just look into the light and repeat after me: Coal is good. Solar is bad.Coal is good. Solar is bad.Coal is good. Solar is bad.Coal is good. Solar is bad.Coal is good. Solar is bad.Coal is good. Solar is bad.Coal is good. Solar is bad. Your compliance will be rewarded.The lies of Alinta will be rewarded.The lies of Alinta will be rewarded.The lies of Alinta will be rewarded. Hail Hydra!

  • Beat Odermatt

    The Northern Power Station in Port Augusta and the Leigh Creek Coalfield had only a life time of 30 years and their closure by 2015 was predicted in numerous reports including mine plans etc.
    The closure of these power station and coal mine will leave under utilised infrastructure stranded. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sub-stations and high voltage power lines to Adelaide and Leigh Creek.
    More renewable energy generation based in Port Augusta, Leigh Creek, Roxby Downs etc. does make sense to provide energy to the grid. If renewable energy can be stored for use during peak demand, then the model rejected by Alinta has some merits.
    Ideally we have more solar, wind and maybe wave power in the west of South Australia. The geographical location would help to provide energy late in the afternoon and early evening.

  • David McKay

    I understand that the tender required the plant to be within an easy commute from the ACT. Depends on your definition of “an easy commute” I guess. DNI in ACT is not that great for CSP. I would think that 50MW would be at the very low end of the economics of this type of plant? I would much prefer us getting excited over the chances of one of the Australian developed CSP technologies winning that bid.

    • Murru Dochpert

      The polies’ favoured Agusta Westland 109 helicopter only has a range of about 900 km. That’s about 200 km short for a flight from a Canberra, so i guess that rules out Port Augusta as an ‘easy commute’.