Community leaders at Port Augusta are calling on power company Alinta to switch the regional city’s power plant to solar-thermal or risk its closure.
Alinta is doing a feasibility study on whether to transform the Port Augusta coal-fired power station.
The study results are expected by the end of the month.
A key consideration is whether a full solar-thermal plant is the best option, or whether to use a hybrid model that combines solar-thermal technology with the current coal-fired plant.
A local lobby group, Repower Port Augusta, has gathered 1,500 signatures in favour of a transformation.
Local union official Greg Warner of the CFMEU says conversion of the station to solar-thermal would be a boost for the regional economy.
"It’s quite surprising how much the local workers out there support this," he said.
"I represent people down at Leigh Creek where the coal comes from and they’re fully understanding too that 2027 is the life of the mine down there."
The transformation proposal also has the backing of Port Augusta Council.
Technology is new, but known to work
Repower chairwoman Lisa Lumsden says Alinta should not be deterred by using the technology for the first time in Australia.
"The technology we know works, it’s been built in several countries in the world so it’s not about the viability.
"It’s about where to put it and how much it will cost and the impact it will have on their current market and the way their company works."
Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson says the council cannot give Alinta preferential treatment to convince it which model to choose, but he says the council will help any project in areas such as development applications.
"I’m very confident that Alinta has our interests at heart and they need to make a commercial decision," he said.
"I think now is also the time that they need to make a decision that is bold about the future.
"We would certainly come to the table with whatever option they choose and make things easy for them and work together."
In a statement to the ABC, Alinta said:
"Alinta Energy is currently reviewing options including several technologies that would utilise both stand-alone and hybrid configurations through to the end of the month, when a recommended option will be provided to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
Once this recommendation has been assessed by both Alinta Energy and ARENA, we will be making the information public through an options study report that will be released by the end of May, as per our obligations through the ARENA funding agreement.
Since we have not completed the assessment of these technologies, we will not be in a position to comment on the preferred option until that report is released.