NSW Greens Unveil Concentrated Solar Power Plans

The New South Wales Greens yesterday launched their official election campaign, with renewable energy taking centre stage of their platform to revitalise the state’s heartlands.
    
With the election little more than a week away, the Greens announced plans to make the switch to zero-emissions power generation by building three new 200 megawatt (MW) solar thermal power stations in NSW, which they say would protect household power bills from the ever-increasing cost of global coal production.
   
Construction of the first facility would start in March 2012, and would follow the concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) model, whereby a field of highly polished mirrors concentrate sunlight onto a collection point, resulting in extreme heat that creates highly pressurised steam used to drive electric turbines. Residual heat from this process can be stored for later use in molten salt or graphite, meaning the solar thermal station is able to provide electricity 24-hours per day.
  
According to the Greens’ campaign release, the Solar Thermal Plant Initiative would create about 4,500 new jobs for NSW, more if components are manufactured in Australia. Staffing all three plants would create 1,900 new jobs.
   
The Greens’ campaign launch paper states they would:
  
– Immediately commission a six month technology and site study for three 200 MW utility-scale grid-connected, base-load solar thermal power stations;
   
– Pay for the plant using Greens Bonds that raise revenue from the sale of electricity, Renewable Energy Certificates and other Green Energy products;
  
– Commence construction on the first plant by March 2012, with a scheduled completion date of March 2015; and commence construction of next two plants in March 2013 and March 2014.
   
Although it would cost $2.1 billion to build the first plant – paid for by issuing $525 million per year of green bonds over the four years of the construction phase – anticipated falls in technology prices and increased local experience would mean the second and third plants could be built for much less.
  
“Compared to a coal-fired power station of the same size, a 200 MW solar thermal plant will have a $180 million a year advantage, including savings on operating costs, the sale of Renewable Energy Certificates and not having to pay a carbon price,” the Greens launch paper states.