Reported from CSPPLAZA: SolarReserve proposing to build a $650 million solar thermal power plant in South Australia suffered an eight-month shutdown of a facility using the same technology in the United States.But the State Government is confident it will not experience problems here.
California-based firm SolarReserve will fund and build a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta and supply the State Government with all of its power needs over a 20-year contract.
Media reports by multiple news outlets in the US show that a $1 billion facility in the Nevada desert, also owned by SolarReserve, was taken offline last October and only began generating electricity again late last month.
The facility was closed when a small leak was found in a tank filled with molten salt.
The Crescent Dunes solar thermal plant features 10,000 large mirrors focusing light to the top of a 195m tower to heat the salt, which is used to generate steam and produce electricity.
The planned 150MW South Australian solar thermal plant will be the largest of its kind in the world, using 12,000 mirrors to direct heat at a 227m tower.
State Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis on Wednesday confirmed the State Government was aware of the problem with the US facility.
He said the leak found there was “a construction execution issue and had nothing to do with the technology or the design of the plant”.
He added that it had “no impact on the Crescent Dunes’ power supply contract”.
“The State Government is confident in Solar Reserve’s learnings from that project and the measures put in place to prevent it happening again,” Mr Koutsantonis said in a written statement.
“This deal is an incredible outcome for South Australians. It locks in low-cost power for our schools, hospitals and trams while also boosting supply to the broader market in order to reduce power bills for households and businesses.”
The deal with SolarReserve to supply the Government power forms part of a broader state energy plan.
Premier Jay Weatherill has defended allocating $2.6 million to an advertising budget to spruik the plan.
He argued the advertising was necessary to “ensure” investors understood that SA has “a secure energy future” and to protect the state’s reputation against people “seeking to essentially characterise South Australia as having an insecure and unstable energy system”.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall accused the Government of being “desperate to cling to Government and they don’t mind how much taxpayer money they spend to do it”.
“We hope the government has done the necessary due diligence … before awarding this very significant contract (to SolarReserve),” he said.
“We need as many new (electricity) generators in South Australia as possible.”
The solar thermal plant proposed for Port Augusta is expected to create 650 jobs during construction from 2018 to 2020.
However, Mr Weatherill conceded that state’s manufacturing sector faced another so-called Valley of Death, like that facing the defence industry, as it braced for the loss of jobs when the Holden car-making factory closes.
He said the Government expected up to 1500 supply chain jobs to be shed while the industry waited for future major projects to come online.
“It’s an incredibly hard thing for a business to wind down to almost zero, to lose their major customer (Holden) … but at the same time create new products and seek new markets (like solar) to actually grow their business,” he said.
“The skills and capabilities of these workers can be applied to growing industries.
“We said at the time that Holden announced it would close that this would be a race against time. It was always a ridiculously tight timeline.”