Green activists have been campaigning for solar thermal power in Port Augusta, South Australia for more than a year and now Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith has thrown his support behind the plans, urging the Federal Government to support it financially.
Port Augusta’s two aging coal-fired power stations, Northern and Playford B, are due to be replaced, and Adelaide’s Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN) and Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) argue that solar thermal power plants are the logical way forward due to the area’s perfect weather conditions. The organisations also point out that the work force in Port Augusta is easily convertible as many of the jobs in a solar facility would be very similar to those already being carried out in the coal-fired power stations.
Dick Smith, who is currently working on a documentary about energy in Australia agrees.
“The solar thermal proposal for Port Augusta is a good one – there’s money coming from the carbon tax that we’re supposed to be looking at alternative energy and this would be an ideal way of doing it,” he said. “The power company is enthusiastic, the people are enthusiastic – let’s try it here in Port Augusta.”
Smith says the area would be an ideal location to do some trial work in anticipation of the global shift that will eventually have to take place when it comes to energy use.
“I don’t think it will be something that will be affordable in the short-term but if it’s funded by the Federal Government, as it is supposed to be through the carbon tax, we can at least see what alternative energy is going to be like,” he says.
The green organisations have forged strong connections with union delegates, the Port Augusta Business Association, church groups, local teachers and health workers and say the response from the local community has been extremely positive. They say many are fed up with the health problems associated with coal dust and were not previously aware of the clean, solar thermal alternative. In a vote coordinated by community group ‘Repower Port Augusta’, 4,053 local residents have thrown their support behind solar thermal while just 43 voted for gas.
BZE estimates that replacing both power stations with solar thermal would create about 1,300 jobs in the construction phase and 250 ongoing operations and maintenance positions – similar to the size of the current coal-fired power station work force – and would reduce long-term carbon dioxide emissions by some 100 million tonnes.