Port Augusta Solar Thermal Power Plant will be Biggest of its Type in the World 

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South Australia’s reputation as the solar hub of Australia is growing after the state government approved construction of a solar thermal power plant near Port Augusta.

The 150 MW solar thermal power plant will also be the biggest of its kind in the world. The project will create 650 local jobs during construction and 50 ongoing positions.

The solar thermal process uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver on top of a 220-metre tower. This heats molten salt within the tower to 565°C, generating enough steam to drive a turbine and create electricity.

Traditionally, Port Augusta was a hub for coal-fired generation. However, the new solar plant is cementing the transition away from coal. The process started with the closure of Alinta Energy’s coal station in 2016 and the Leigh Creek coal mine in 2015.

Solar thermal power puts downward pressure on prices

Acting Energy Minister Chris Picton described the solar thermal power plant project as “world-leading”.

“[It] will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals, schools and other major government buildings,” he said.

“This approval triggers an investment of about $650 million, will create a total of about 700 construction and ongoing jobs in Port Augusta. It will add new competition to the South Australian market, putting downward pressure on power prices.”

Court decision curbs distributor charges

South Australian electricity consumers had another win this week when the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) defeated a bid by SA Power Networks (SAPN) to increase costs.

The Full Federal Court yesterday confirmed the AER’s October 2015 revenue decision for SAPN. As a result, consumers will receive savings delivered in the original decision.

SAPN had proposed recovering $4.5 billion from consumers over the five-year regulatory period commencing on 1 July 2015. However, the AER determined that the distributor required $3.8 billion in order to deliver safe, secure and reliable power.

“We welcome today’s decision, in this long-running legal dispute, which means South Australian consumers will get the savings from our original 2015 decision,” said AER chair Paula Conboy.

“At a time when rising energy costs are a serious concern to households not just in South Australia but across the nation, the AER is working to make all Australian energy consumers better off now and in the future.”

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