SA energy minister offers hope for solar thermal and storage

SA energy minister offers hope for solar thermal and storage

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SA energy minister warns dismantling state RET would succeed only in killing “dispatchable, baseload” solar thermal.

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The threat of three state Liberal parties to unwind the renewable energy targets in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland has elicited an encouraging response from SA energy minister Tom Koutsantonis about the attraction of solar thermal energy as a “dispatchable” energy source.

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The Liberal party in SA, led by Steven Marshall, has joined state counterparts in vowing to scrap South Australia’s 50 per cent renewable energy target if elected next March.

That’s a little academic, because by the time the next two wind farm stages are completed at Hornsdale, and the 100MW solar farm is commissioned by Snowy Hydro, the state would likely have already met that target, with more than seven years to spare.

But the reaction of Koutsantonis to the news has been particularly encouraging, given that the state is currently holding a tender for the supply of 75 per cent of the government’s energy needs. He used the prospect of solar thermal as a key thrust to his argument.

“All it would do (killing the 50 per cent renewable energy target) is help the coal cartel, and it kills solar thermal in Port Augusta or any part of this state, forever,” Koutsantonis said in an interview with ABC Radio

“The dream of renewable energy that is dispatchable, that has storage and can be baseload, has just been pierced through the heart by (Opposition leader Steve Marshall).”

Solar thermal, particularly a project pushed by US company Solar Reserve in Port Augusta, is likely one of many projects to have submitted a bid for the government tender, although its success will likely depend on numerous factors including the length of the project.

(Another proposal, from the Solarstor company fronted by John Hewson, appears to have disappeared without a trace, failing to deliver its promise of a pilot plant at the end of 2016, nor delivering on its promised international projects).

Even Opposition Energy Spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan has talked in support of solar thermal at Port Augusta:

“We have finance available, we have companies that say they want to do it. We have an indisputable outstanding solar resource in Port Augusta, we have land, we have space, we have a skilled workforce, we have a willing community. All of these come together to say that solar thermal in Port Augusta must be part of the solution.”

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  1. Olwen2050 4 years ago

    Very disappointing move by Steven Marshall. Obviously he’s obeying orders from Canberra. It will not help the SA Liberals’ prospects in the March 2018 state election. South Australians in general support renewable energy, even though the Murdoch press would have us believe otherwise.

  2. solarguy 4 years ago

    Vast Solar is an Australian CST company that has a good solar thermal pilot plant in NSW. SA should consider it as a contender.

  3. Nick Thiwerspoon 4 years ago

    Concentrated solar power is an obvious addition to the grid. Better than baseload, because it’s dispatchible, with output tunable to the immediate needs of the grid–high from 4 to 10 pm, low from midnight to 6 am. I’m very glad South Australia is considering it. A (or several) CSP plant(s) at Port Augusta will conclusively demonstrate that a 100% green grid is not only feasible but also cheaper than a fossil fuel one.

  4. Greg Hudson 4 years ago

    Anyone ever hear what happened to that geothermal company that was pumping water 5km down under ground (in the SA desert), and using the returning super heated steam to power a turbine ?

    • AllanO 4 years ago

      Geodynamics – I haven’t followed them for a few years but basically the cost and technical difficulties of drilling and maintaining wells 5km deep into hard granite defeated them – not surprising. Yet another case of the lure of “zero cost fuel” ignoring the realities of enormous capital cost and technical risk with not much prospect of reducing those significantly (the drilling is basically standard oil and gas industry technology so it’s not like there’s a big future learning curve to be exploited). Fusion power being the ultimate example of just how hard this sort of stuff can be.

      • Greg Hudson 4 years ago

        Thanks for that

  5. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    The SA Liberals don’t say that they want to scrap the fossil fuel subsidies st the same time as they scrap the RET. I figure they don’t want clean dispatchable energy. They just want to pollute.

  6. smee 4 years ago

    Not to forget the SILICONE BATTERY storage from 1414 degrees.

    • Jo 4 years ago

      I am just worried about the container.

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