Australian renewable energy developer CWP Renewables is proposing a 250MW solar tower and storage project near Townsville, saying it could be a cost effective alternative to either a new coal generator or even battery storage proposed by wind and solar projects.

The project – dubbed Freedom Energy One – was cited by the Queensland Labor party as part of its energy policy launch on Sunday, which includes a promised $50 million to “kick-start” solar thermal in the state.

The CWP project is one of a number of different proposals emerging for solar thermal in Queensland, including from SolarReserve, the US company that has built a similar installation in Nevada (pictured above) and has been contracted to build a 150MW facility near Port Augusta.

SolarReserve said on Monday it was looking to develop up to six solar thermal facilities in Queensland in the next 10 years, that will deliver up to 900MW of fully dispatchable firm renewable electricity, creating up to 24,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

CWP, which proposed a similar sized project – this time near the Kogan Creek power station in south west Queensland – nearly a decade ago as part of the ill-fated “Solar Flagships” program, says it has yet to finalise a site, but is looking at several possibilities south west of Townsville.

Nor has it finalised its technology partner, saying a decision would be made once the details of the project had been scoped, and which technology would better suit the local conditions and economic prospects.

In a statement, CWP estimated the project would have a capital cost of approximately $1.3 billion and would create over 2,000 jobs during the two year construction period.

This would encompass civil works, the installation of thousands of tracking mirrors (‘heliostats’), the installation of thermal receiver towers, thermal storage tanks and piping, and the construction of a new electrical substation. It would support more than 50 long term employees.

CWP says the project could include 12 hours of storage – again subject to further investigation, and would obviate the need for any new coal fired power station.

Project manager Andrew Dickson said solar thermal would not carry the same carbon risks as a coal project, or the same fuel price risks. And it would be more flexible and dispatchable than a coal fired generator.

“It is a counter argument for the need of a coal fired power station,” Dickson told RenewEconomy. “It adds flexibility and it is much faster (response). It goes to the question: Do you want ‘baseload’ or do you want dispatchability.”

CWP is also building the 270MW Sapphire wind farm in NSW, and is looking to add significant amounts of solar PV and battery storage to that project.

“This Concentrated Solar Thermal project can deliver dispatchable, emissions-free power to North Queensland, together with thousands of high value jobs which utilise the existing skills of the North Queensland workforce” managing director Alex Hewitt said in a statement.

The statement said CST power works by concentrating the heat of the sun’s rays using mirrors and a thermal receiver. The concentrated energy can be stored in a fluid such as molten salt, or in solid graphite blocks.

This heat can be stored until when it is most needed to generate and supply power to the electrical grid This system can supply electricity to the evening electrical peaks when the sun may not be shining, or the wind may not be blowing.

When generation is required, the stored heat is converted into superheated steam, which is used to drive a steam turbine generator to create electrical power.

“The generation end is very similar to a coal fired power station, but instead of crushing and burning dirty coal to create heat, the heat is obtained from concentrated sunlight,” Hewitt said.

“It has long term storage for flexible generation with a faster dispatch than a coal fired power station. It entails construction and operations jobs which are familiar to North Queensland power and LNG workers, enabling workers to transition to jobs which have long term security.”

Subject to authority approvals project construction would start in the first half of 2019.