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Hybrid solar plants - are they enough?

28th Feb 2013

Last week we talked about how the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is investing in a study with energy producer RATCH-Australia, to analyse the feasibility of hybrid solar power plants.

The idea is for the Collinsville coal-fired power station to be redeveloped into a hybrid plant, powered by a mixture of solar thermal and gas.

According to RenewEconomy, an independent economy and environmental website, this is causing some controversy in the solar electricity sector due to the development not being 'pure' solar.

In an interview with RenewEconomy columnist Giles Parkinson in November 2012, chairman of ARENA Greg Bourne explained that solar hybrids - while not perfectly clean - are going to be part of the future.

"The reality is transition will take place through a hybrid route. We are not looking at hybrids per se, but the recognition that hybrids will be part of that route, be it gas and wind, or gas and solar," said Mr Bourne.

However, not all hope is lost for solar-only energy in 2013. There are still a number of solar PV plants being built or proposed throughout Australia.

These include two 50 MW Investec plants in WA, Belectric's 5 MW Mildura power plant, a proposal from Pacific Hydro for a 30 MW plant, and a proposal from Infigen Energy for a 35 MW plant near Canberra.

That's a lot of solar action and it's only the beginning of 2013.

While hybrid solar energy plants aren't the most pure of clean technologies, it looks like they may have to be accepted as at least a step forward for the adoption of large scale solar technology in Australia.

Perhaps as solar hybrid plants develop and prove themselves efficient and successful, there will be more planning and development for solar-only power plants.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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