It is encouraging that Alinta, with financial support from ARENA and the SA Government, is currently finalising a pre-feasibility study into concentrated solar thermal power at Port Augusta.
It is encouraging that Alinta, with financial support from ARENA and the SA Government, is currently finalising a pre-feasibility study into concentrated solar thermal power at Port Augusta – a project that has the full support of the community. At present the capex of CSP is too high for a company to meet what is required for shareholder returns, but costs will decrease as the technology develops further. If government were to contribute an amount equivalent to saved externalities (such as adverse health effects associated with continuing the coal power station) it is probable that the project would be economically viable now.
CSP is of particular value to a renewable grid, as it has the ability to efficiently store energy, be despatchable and provide synchronous generation and grid stability. These capabilities will circumvent the need for inflexible base load generators such as coal, CCGT and nuclear, with their many externalities. Port Augusta is an ideal location for CSP and presents a great opportunity for the future.
The closure of the Port Augusta Power Station may initially appear as bad news, but it may galvanise South Australia in becoming the iconic turning point for a new future – a future in which Australia again leads in solar development and export; where energy security is based on the sun and not the fossil reserves; where long-term thinking is built into economic analysis; and where prosperity is not measured by GDP but by net wealth and wellbeing.
Graham Davies is incoming chair of Engineers Australia’s Sustainable Engineering Society. http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/spinifex/the-transition-from-fossil-to-renewable-energy/75484