May 20th 2009
NQ economic groups push for solar plant
With an average of 320 days of sunshine per year Magnetic Island was well qualified to become a Solar Cities suburb and, with the release of a new report, regional business leaders have lined up to push the state and federal governments to choose north Queesland as a site for one of the plants comprising the $1.4 billion solar thermal power station network proposed this week by the Prime Minister.
The Renewable Energy Report, produced by a collection of north Queensland regional economic development agencies, including Townsville Enterprise, highlights north Queensland’s renewable credentials and came as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the solar plans.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that $1.4 billion would be spent on solar energy. "In the next six months or so the Government will define the tender specifications for industry right across the country. In the first six months of 2010 the Government will nominate successful tenders. Our objective is to co-invest with industry in what will end up being a network of stations across the country. Co-locating as close as possible with the existing electricity grid, locating as best as possible in terms of access to Australia’s biggest natural resource – our sunshine. And making sure that we are doing so in an effective and efficient way with business on the way though."
Solar thermal plants operate differently to silicon-based photovoltaic cells as have been attached to Magnetic Island roofs under the Solar Cities scheme. Solar thermal plants include vast arrays of reflectors which aim and focus the sun's rays to a single location which may be a tower in which materials such as graphite are heated to extreme temperatures. Due to the special qualities of the materials heat can be stored for extensive periods at levels capable of generating power at night and for days when the sun isn't shining.
Townsville Enterprise Economic Development General Manager Dr Lisa McDonald said the Prime Minister’s criteria for the location of the world’s biggest solar power station are addressed by the report.
“According to the report North Queensland receives 50% more solar energy exposure than anywhere to the south and the region’s well documented need for energy generation and lower transmission costs make us the ideal candidate for this technology.”
“Economic Development organisations from the greater north Queensland region have been beating a path to the offices of State and Commonwealth ministers for energy for many years highlighting the need for power generation in our region.”
“We’re calling on the Federal Government to act now on the region’s need for power, and pick a North Queensland location for this solar power station.”
“We believe renewable energy represents our best chance for securing generation in the region – and this report backs that up with facts and figures. The report considers a broad range of renewable energy options that could feasibly deliver up to 1200 Megawatts of generation per year.”
“Implementation of the renewable technologies suggested by the report would reduce margin loss factors – the costs of transmission of power into the region – by between three and seven percent, and provide a long term, environmentally responsible solution to the energy conundrum facing North Queensland users.”
“It’s highly unlikely that northern Queensland will have our power woes addressed using any traditional power generation technologies – we aren’t ideally positioned to tap into thermal coal power stations or any gas reserves – but we are in a prime location for renewable energy generation,” Dr McDonald said.
Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone Executive Officer Glen Graham said the study was commissioned in order to better equip northern Queensland’s economic development agencies as they advocate for energy investment.
“As a group we believe the modelling work carried out in our report would be most valuable for decision makers such as the federal government and other renewable energy investors as it factors in the north’s growth projections and examines ways future power generation could meet Australia’s mandatory renewable energy targets”.
“Our report provides the sort of detailed information required and clearly meets the criteria the federal government is looking for as part of the 1000MW of renewable power generation it seeks to provide across Australia. A 250MW solar farm in the north could be the first of such projects and the power would go straight onto the grid to help meet our ever increasing energy demand, particularly in the North West Minerals Province,” Mr Graham said.
Advance Cairns Chief Executive Officer Ross Contarino said any decision to build a solar thermal power station in the region would have a positive impact on regional employment.
Mackay Whitsundays Regional Economic Development Corporation Chief Executive Officer Narelle Pearse said the report’s release means the region is ideally positioned to capitalise on the prevailing government attitudes.
The Renewable Energy Report was commissioned by Townsville Enterprise, the Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone, the Mackay Whitsundays Regional Economic Development Corporation, Advance Cairns and the Queensland Department of Infrastructure and Planning, and conducted by ROAM consulting.