New coalition to reclaim South Australia’s grid for solar power

August 17, 2011

In an exciting development in the South Australian climate action scene, a range of groups have united to campaign for Australia’s first concentrated solar thermal power plants in Port Augusta, about four hours north of Adelaide.

The Adelaide Moving Planet Organising Collective includes representatives from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Conservation Council of South Australia, the Climate Emergency Network of South Australia, the Young Greens, the Socialist Alliance and Resistance.

It was formed in response to the call by the climate action campaign website to organise a global mobilisation — called Moving Planet — on September 24.

On that day, communities from around the world will take action to move the planet beyond fossil fuels.

In South Australia, the focus on Port Augusta is timely. The future of its two brown coal-fired power stations, Northern and Playford B, is the subject of much speculation in the wake of the federal government’s carbon price announcement.

The aging power stations, long perceived as a health risk by locals, will need to be replaced in the next five years. In an area which has huge resources of sun and wind and an existing high-capacity grid connection, this poses a great opportunity for South Australia to move forward into 21st century energy generation.

The scientific and engineering team at Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) estimate that replacing the Port Augusta coal-fired power stations with concentrated solar thermal, or a combination of concentrated solar thermal and wind, would prevent the emission of roughly 5 million tonnes of CO2 every year and could supply 50% of South Australia’s power needs.

About 1300 construction jobs would be created over a four-to-five year period, with at least 250 permanent jobs in operations and maintenance.

BZE estimate the cost of replacing Northern and Playford B with renewable energy using a feed in tariff would result in a 1% increase in electricity prices to Australian consumers.

These figures are only rough estimates and the Conservation Council of South Australia is undertaking more work on the feasibility of such a proposal.

Regrettably, there has been scant discussion of concentrated solar thermal as an alternative for Port Augusta, with local media and politicians resolutely focussing on gas as the transition fuel.

A switch to gas would provide far less jobs than renewable alternatives, pose health risks for the local community and continue the outpouring of CO2 emissions.

The Moving Planet working group in Adelaide aims to put concentrated solar thermal at the forefront of the discussion with a series of banner drops, stalls, displays, doorknocks and speak outs in Adelaide and Port Augusta.

There will also be a Reclaim the Grid street parade through Adelaide on September 24, featuring a moving solar thermal tower and mirror array.

[For more information or to get involved in the Moving Planet campaign in South Australia phone Daniel on 0423 865 632.]

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