An announcement from Alinta Energy to further investigate the viability of a solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta has been greeted cautiously by Doctors For The Environment.

Alinta Energy announced last week it had dropped the idea of hybrid coal/solar power station and will instead focus on a 50MW stand alone solar thermal power station with 15 hours storage in an ongoing feasibility study.
    
Doctors for the Environment’s South Australian spokesman welcomed the announcement
but questioned how long it has taken to get to this stage.
   
“We are cautious about this in that it’s taken over four years to even just get to this point and to use the technology which is already widely used around the world,” he said.
    
“There are nearly 40 of these solar thermal plants in operation worldwide and a further 20 being built right now.”
  
Repower Port Augusta was
more upbeat about the announcement.
  
“Solar thermal with storage gives our community the opportunity to transition away from coal, keep jobs in town and secure our long term future,” said Lisa Lumsden, Chairperson of Repower Port Augusta.
  
“Alinta has made the right choice today and we look forward to working with them to get this project off the ground.”
  
In addition to Alinta Energy’s slow progress, another threat to the project looms large.
   
The feasibility study has been the recipient of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA); which is threatened by the Government’s renewables razor gang.
  
“While funding for the study is secure, cuts to ARENA would make solar thermal in Port Augusta unlikely to move beyond the study phase as Federal Government funding will be required to get the project off the ground,” says Repower Port Augusta.
  
Commenting on the threat to ARENA generally, the Clean Energy Council’s Kane Thornton said abolishing the agency would have a major negative effect.
   
“Closing ARENA would be a massive blow to the hundreds of companies that have invested and employed people to help build an exciting future for solar, geothermal and marine energy in Australia. But legislation to shut down ARENA still needs to pass the Senate.”
  
A Senate Standing Committee review is under way. Mr. Thornton says the CEC has been briefing key MPs on the importance of retaining ARENA and the body has
prepared a submission (PDF) to the Senate Committee.
  
Mr. Thornton encourages interested parties to make a submission. These can be sent to economics.sen@aph.gov.au by Wednesday 16 July.