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).
Instead, 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.
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.