Solar energy developers are focusing their attention on the South Australian city of Port Augusta after the community’s economy took a hit when its largest employer, Alinta Energy, closed its coal-fired power station according to ABC
For the past 5 years, the community has been pushing for a transmission from coal to renewable energy, which is now a few steps closer to becoming a reality.
Residents and those in the neighbouring city of Whyalla brag the region gets “300 days of sunshine” every year. Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson said the tagline had become more than just a tourism slogan with solar companies getting serious about development in the region.
Johnson said that Reach Solar have made an application to the State Government as recent as only a few weeks ago for a very real project at Port Augusta using solar PVs. He also said that Solastor and Solar Reserve are looking at large-scale solar thermal technology projects, which are both in the vicinity of $1 billion. He also added one of the further progressed proposals was for the DP Energy Renewable Energy Park to the south of the city.
Giles Parkinson, editor of Renew Economy said the spike in interest was not surprising. Parkinson said that there are 2 hot markets for solar at the moment; South Australia and Queensland. If South Australia is mentioned, Port Augusta and Whyalla come to mind.
Solar is becoming a more affordable investment option. Plus solar PVs are becoming more affordable and it’s actually falling to a point where it can truly compete with wind energy.
Parkinson also stated that the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has funded wind farm developments, but in its latest grant rounds awarded more than $91 million to solar PV projects across the country.
Tony Wood, Grattan Institute director of energy programs, agreed that government policy like ARENA funding has influenced investment decisions. But he also said that this can create a bias on the kinds of projects that are funded. Wood said that decisions about the most suitable forms of renewable energy have been made by governments rather than investors.
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