Port Augusta to vote on a solar power future

Concentrated solar thermal power plant.
Thursday, July 12, 2012

The campaign for Port Augusta to become the site of Australia’s first solar thermal power plant has escalated. Port Augusta residents will be asked to vote on the plan.

Newly-formed community group “Repower Port Augusta” will host a week-long community vote, which they say will show the overwhelming support that exists for a solar thermal future for the town.

Port Augusta residents have long-suffered serious health impacts from the town’s two coal-powered plants, which supply 30% of South Australia’s electricity.

Research by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) says they need not suffer any longer. BZE says that shifting from coal to solar power will address longstanding public health issues and massively cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It will also offer big employment benefits, from the maintenance and operation of the solar plants to the manufacturing that will take place in the area.

Critically, solar thermal power will provide far more jobs for the community than gas power. Gas would also still detrimentally affect public health and the environment.

Repower Port Augusta launched the community vote on July 13 and begin the week=long polling on July 15. The group said the ballot will ask “the community to decide if it wants concentrated solar thermal or gas to replace Port Augusta’s ageing coal power stations”.

Elizabeth Zyla, Repower Port Augusta chairperson and local nurse, said: “We face two options in Port Augusta — a solar replacement which would secure the jobs and health of the community or gas which would mean fewer jobs and still has issues regarding emissions and the long-term health of the community.

“This vote is a powerful way for the community to send a message on what they want for their future.”

The Port Augusta City Council has endorsed the community vote.

Mayor Joy Baluch said: “Port Augusta can be the centre of a nation building renewable energy transformation. I encourage everyone to get out and vote on Sunday to make their voice heard.”