SIX solar thermal plants built across the north of the state would create 24,000 jobs and could collectively create a power station able to deliver as much energy as SA sources from Victoria.
American company SolarReserve has been working on a proposal for a large-scale solar thermal project at Port Augusta and has now extended its plans to build a further five over the next 10 years.
SolarReserve chief executive Kevin Smith said Leigh Creek, Woomera, Whyalla, and Roxby Downs has been identified as possible sites for the other projects which could be larger than the first at Port Augusta.
But the plan hinges on the first becoming financially viable which Mr Smith, who visited Port Augusta on Monday, said was reliant on the company securing long-term supply contract and taxpayer funding.
He said the State Government’s announcement last week that it would tender for a supplier for 75 per cent of its energy needs over the next 10 years was the sort of contract SolarReserve needed.
“If we can get the first project under construction by the end of 2017, these projects have a two and a half to three year construction timeline, we would hope to follow the other projects shortly after,” he said.
Prior to the Federal Election Environment Minister Greg Hunt promised financial support for the Port Augusta project, which alone could create up to 1000 jobs during construction.
“We have set out when we laid out the Clean Energy Innovation Fund that our number one priority in Australia would be a comprehensive solar thermal plant in Port Augusta,” he said.
SolarReserve is meeting with the Federal Government later this week to try and firm up details of this commitment.
The Aurora project at Port Augusta would have a generation capacity up to 110 megawatts be able to store the energy for eight hours.
Mr Smith said each project there after would be of a similar size but there would be scope to increase the scale if there was demand.
Each project would be expected to create up to 4000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and around 50 long-term jobs.
The cumulative effect of these projects would create 24,000 jobs during construction and 300 permanent jobs when each were up and running.
The full six projects would collectively create a power station in SA equivalent in capacity to the Heywood interconnector which is undergoing an upgrade to increase its capacity to 650MW.
Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the tender for 75 per cent of the Government’s electricity needs was aimed at introducing new competition into the energy market in SA.
“It is technology agnostic so I absolutely encourage SolarReserve to bid for the contract,” he said.
Mr Koutsantonis said Federal Government support through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency was “essential for innovation in clean energy” as well as for investment and jobs in the north of our state.
“I call on the federal Parliament to protect ARENA funding so it can continue to underpin development in renewable technologies,” he said.