Thursday, October 6, 2011

From brown coal to solar thermal

The Climate Spectator has a report on some positive thinking in South Australia, where Alinta is considering converting an old coal fired power station to a solar thermal power generator - From brown coal to solar thermal.
The owners of Australia’s most polluting coal-fired power station, the Playford plant in South Australia, are considering converting it to a solar thermal facility if it is closed as part of the government’s proposed buyout of brown-coal generators.

Jeff Dimery, the head of the now privately owned Alinta, said solar thermal technology was one of two options being considered after the closure of the 240MW Playford, and may be an easier option than trying to source gas for a gas-fired peaking generator, as there is no gas pipeline to Port Augusta.

“We’re exploring the idea of building a renewable facility and integrate that with baseload (from the remaining northern station) and solar thermal would be ideal, as there a good sun resource in the region,” Dimery told Climate Spectator in an interview. “The technology requires funding, and it’s a case of needing to convince government that it is one of better projects. We intend to explore it.”

Playford is one of four brown coal generators eligible to make a tender for the government’s proposed buyout, which intends to remove 2000MW of brown coal generation from the grid by 2020 in order to reduce emissions, and create room for gas-fired generation or renewables to be built in their place.

The solar thermal idea will not form part of Playford’s submission – apparently it matters not what the owners of the retiring generation plant intend to do with the funds (and some may be expected to expatriate those funds overseas), but Dimery is confident that Playford would be an attractive option in any case. For a start, it’s the most polluting, at 1.7t of Co2e/MWh, the early closure of 240MW would have little impact on the National Energy Market, and the workforce could be absorbed at the neighbouring 520MW Northern Power Station without any forced redundancies. That could save on government funds.

The other attraction of solar thermal is that it could be integrated into the Northern Power Station, pre-heating boilers in the same way that a solar booster plant will be designed to do at the Kogan Creek power station in Queensland, and/or putting electricity directly into the grid.

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