Solar Dawn pushes benefits ahead of Qld grant decision

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The consortium behind the $1.2 billion Solar Dawn project underlines job and economic benefits as Newman government reassesses threat to withdraw funding.

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The Solar Dawn consortium proposing to build the giant 250MW solar thermal power station in Queensland, has underlined the job, social and research benefits of its $1.2 billion project as continues talks with the state government over the threatened withdrawal of a state grant.

Solar Dawn this week released findings from a “independent study” completed by AECgroup, which found the project will create 300 jobs each year during the construction phase, with a peak of 450 jobs, including 50 jobs in a local manufacturing facility for the solar reflectors. There will be a further 30 permanent jobs during its 25 years of operations and maintenance.

The study says the project will result in $1.5 billion of direct investment and indirect economic activity in state economy during the construction period, representing more than $560.4 million in gross value-added activity and $338.5 million in wages and salaries over the next three years.

Solar Dawn project director Anthony Wiseman said the estimates are based on expenditure only. “So they’re not the full project development spend and they don’t account for a possible ‘solar cluster’ developing in the Western Downs region, which would bring even greater advantages,” he said in a statement. Areva, the French nuclear giant that is the mainstay of the consortium, is also building a 44MW “solar boost” facility at the nearby Kogan Creek coal fired power station.

“Along with the substantial economic activity generated, Solar Dawn will contribute associated state taxes, levies and duties during construction. This will all help towards the Queensland Government achieving its goal of a budget surplus by 2015.”

The project has been thrown into doubt after newly elected Premier Campbell Newman threatened to rescind the state government’s proposed $75 million grant, which supports a $464 million grant from the Federal Government under the Solar Flagships program.

Talks between the consortium members, and with and between the state and federal governments are continuing. There is no word on when a final decision will be reached, or the potential impact the uncertainty is having on Solar Dawn’s efforts to secure a power purchase agreement. It was given a six month extension by the federal government after failing to meet a December financing deadline.

In the meantime, the consortium is trying to counter the state government’s aversion to grants by pointing to the economic and other benefits.

The project includes a $60 million research project to be conducted with The University of Queensland, which will also investigate developments in hybrid cooling and thermal energy storage.

UQ professor Paul Meredith said the research would help develop a critical capability in solar thermal technology, including new intellectual property and understanding, as well as highly trained engineers, scientists, economists and social policy experts.

“In Australia, this level of expertise is probably limited to the CSIRO and the Australian National University – and it’s embryonic in Queensland,” Meredith said in a statement.

“We hope the quality of the infrastructure and research program will fuel additional investment from national and international sources. This will build on the initial investment in Queensland and maximise the direct economic benefit to our state. The clean energy agenda and the renewable energy agenda are absolutely critical for Queensland, and for the nation as a whole.”

 

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