Proposal for $1.2bn solar thermal power plant at Port Augusta.

A new proposal for a $1.2 billion solar thermal plant at Port Augusta, backed by former federal Liberal leader Dr John Hewson, can be revealed by The Advertiser just weeks after the city was hit with the closure of its power station. 

Solastor Australia will next week unveil its plans to build a solar thermal power station with a generation capacity up to 170 megawatts and energy storage capabilities, The Advertiser has discovered.

The Northern power station at Port Augusta, which closed last month, generated 544mW.

While details of the project remain secret until an official announcement on Tuesday, a similar proposal from US company SolarReserve would create up to 1000 jobs during construction and about 50 permanent jobs.

Solastor Australia

Solastor Australia chairman Dr Hewson will reveal the company intends to build a fully integrated, solar thermal power station and energy storage system to provide SA with “24/7 base load and peak load generation”.

“We’ll be announcing it all on Tuesday,” he said last night. “This is world-class. We think this is something we can roll out not only across Australia but internationally. It’s Australian technology, it gives Australia a real edge … in actually being able to turn sunlight into effective baseload energy.”

The Advertiser understands behind-the-scenes work on the proposal has been underway for months. The company has a plant in China and has been working in the Middle East.

And Solastor believes that it can produce affordable energy from the plant. In a statement, Solastor Australia said the proposed power station would cost about $1.2 billion and would have a generation capacity of 110mW in winter and 170mW in summer.

“Once completed, it will generate approximately 1.25 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per annum, which is sufficient to provide power to more than 200,000 Australian homes,” the statement said.

Both Federal and State governments are aware of the plans — and consider it to be a legitimate proposal.

Last month, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt promised financial support for the 110mW SolarReserve project, which until now was the only publicly known proposal for a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta.

But earlier this year, Premier Jay Weatherill said that SolarReserve was “not the only large-scale solar producer” to bid in response to a call for renewable energy providers.

Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson said the second proposal was “fantastic news” and, along with four other renewable energy projects, was the “saving grace” for the town and the state’s economy.

“This reinforces comments in the past that Port Augusta will be the renewable capital of Australia,” he said. “This would be South Australia and Australia transitioning to a new world and would be a saving grace for Port Augusta and the SA economy.”

Mr Johnson said this proposal was the fifth renewable energy power station plan, which also included two 100mW solar panel farms, and a combined wind turbine and solar panel farm, the approval of which was expected to be announced next week.

“These projects will support Arrium and the skilled workforce we have, as well as benefiting small business throughout the region,” Mr Johnson said. “All up these projects would replace the generation from the coal-powered plant.” Repower Port Augusta campaigner Dan Spencer said it was great news that more companies were coming forward with proposals.

“Port Augusta really has the opportunity to become a renewable energy hub,” he said.

“More and more proponents are coming forward and saying they want to invest which is really exciting.

“There’s no reason we couldn’t see both these solar projects get built. The more projects, the more investment, the more clean energy.”

In April a Repower Port Augusta-commissioned ReachTEL poll of 1195 people showed that three-quarters believed the Federal Government should help fund the construction of a solar thermal power plant at Port Augusta.

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