Federal Budget Confirms Cash For Solar Thermal In Port Augusta

Solar thermal power station - Port Augusta

Port Augusta solar thermal power station rendering – SolarReserve

There will be many happy folks in the South Australian city of Port Augusta this morning after last night’s Budget confirmed investment support for a solar thermal power station project.

Under a Budget 2017 paper heading “Energy for the future – solar thermal in Port Augusta”, it states:

“The Government will make available up to $110 million for an equity investment, if required, to accelerate and secure delivery of a solar thermal project in Port Augusta, South Australia. This investment is designed to diversify energy generation and storage technologies and create new employment opportunities.”

The Repower Port Augusta team are understandably quite chuffed – they’ve been battling for Federal Government support past lip service for a long time.

” This happened because of everyone who has backed this push for years, solar thermal in Port Augusta is now its own budget line – congratulations!,” says a statement on Repower Port Augusta’s Facebook page.

“Now, all we need is the SA Government to commit to purchasing power from solar thermal in Port Augusta and we will win.”

Award-winning plans for Port Augusta that include the construction of solar thermal power stations were first published in 2012.

U.S. company SolarReserve has expressed serious interest in constructing a 110 megawatt facility incorporating 8 hours of full load storage (880 megawatts-hours) at a site around 30 kilometres north of Port Augusta.

This single plant would be able to generate more than 495 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually; around 5% of South Australia’s energy needs. SolarReserve says the Aurora project could power 90,000 homes, day and night.

It’s expected the project will generate thousands of direct, indirect and induced jobs.

In other energy related spending detailed in the Budget, the Government says it will provide $86.3 million over four years from 2017-18 to boost gas production and ” support affordable electricity prices for households and industry.”

It’s a claim that will no doubt meet with some skepticism even given the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will be monitoring gas and electricity prices.

An element certain to raise eyebrows in the gas package is the $30.4 million to be spent on scientific assessments on three prospective onshore unconventional gas sites.

Also on the cards is a buyback of the Snowy Hydro scheme.

“The Government has commenced discussions with NSW and Victoria to acquire a larger share or outright ownership of Snowy Hydro to facilitate the effective and efficient expansion of Snowy Hydro 2.0.”

Initial analysis and reactions to energy related Budget 2017 announcements can be viewed on The Conversation.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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