The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), natural gas and electricity provider, Alinta, and the South Australian Government will fund a study into solar thermal power generation at Port Augusta.
The Business Spectator reports that ARENA will contribute $1million to the feasibility study, Alinta will contribute $1.2 million, and the SA government will provide $123,000.
As Renew Economy reports, new technology such as solar power towers and molten salt storage have helped to renew interest in solar thermal technology as a genuine renewable energy option.
At present, the only major solar thermal project in Australia is a 44MW solar thermal booster to the Kogan Creek power station in Queensland which is currently under construction. However, elsewhere in the world new projects are coming online.
For example, Abengoa opened a 280MW parabolic trough and storage facility in California this year and has announced it will build a 110MW solar power tower plant with 17.5 hours storage in Chile.
The prospect of solar thermal power production in port Augusta has been championed by Repower Port Augusta, an alliance of local community groups, the Port Augusta City Council, local business, unions, health and environment organisations.
However, while the group welcomed the news of the feasibility study, it called on the SA government to commit to the project and criticised the fact that the study will also consider hybridisation of coal and solar power.
“A solar/coal hybrid is just putting an old polluting power station on life support. Alinta and the government need to ensure we are investing in a full solution for our community which means solar thermal with storage, a technology which is operating around the world”, Repower Port Augusta said in a statement.