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QLD coal fired power plant could be converted to solar/gas hybrid

25th Feb 2013

When it comes to pumping pollution into Australia's airways, there is definitely a wide spectrum of offenders.

On the low end you have the passenger vehicle, chugging along down the road while sending out its contribution of carbon monoxide fumes.

Heavily weighing down the other end of the scale of course, there are the big bad coal fired power stations.

Now imagine if you will a future in which those power stations no longer burn the dirty coal from within the ground, but instead sit tanning themselves all day, producing no pollution, and yet still generating electricity.

Wake up from your reverie - it may not be a reality yet, but that fantasy is anything but an impossible dream.

As any smart Australian household knows, installing solar panels on your roof can help to reduce your dependence on dirty fossil fuel energy. It also empowers you to take control of your own energy generation.

So why don't we do the same on a bigger scale? That doesn't necessarily mean setting up countless solar panel arrays on all the available surfaces of power stations - though that would be a great look - but there are in fact many options for conversion to large scale solar generation.

Last week, the government signalled that it would start considering one of those options.

It announced on February 20 that it would invest in a study to investigate the feasibility of converting the Collinsville Power Station into a hybrid gas/solar thermal plant.

The Collinsville plant is located south of Townsville, and with five coal-powered steam turbines has a generation capacity of 180 MW.

Working through ARENA's Emerging Renewables Program, the government will contribute $2.5 million to a study initiated by the power station's owners, RATCH-Australia Corporation Ltd.

Local research experts will be in on the deal, with the University of Queensland participating in the study which will investigate the viability of converting the coal plant into a 30 MW hybrid gas/solar power station.

As well as providing a possible pathway for one coal plant to swap dirty fossil fuels for clean energy, minister for resources and energy Martin Ferguson said that the study would help other generators assess the possibility of using solar thermal technology at coal plants.

"Such information will include the overall technical feasibility of converting thermal coal fired power stations to solar thermal plants, its costs, the solar yield, network connection and other issues," said Mr Ferguson in a statement.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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