Federal government picks solar innovation but fails on large scale baseload solar commercialisation

MELBOURNE – While the Federal government has at last shown it can identify Australian innovation with the Budget's support for the Australian National University’s “Big Dish” Technology, it has negligently overlooked other key renewable energy solutions.

ANU's Big Dish is committed to receive $60 Million to get a 40MWe power plant up and running at Whyalla South Australia.

“The commitment for the Big Dish shows that Australia can value its innovators and in particular its solar innovators,” said Matthew Wright, Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions.

“After the Howard Government let home-grown solar energy company Ausra (now Areva Solar) go offshore in search of capital only to be bought up by the world's largest nuclear power company, it's good to see that
Australian solar innovation will be commercialised in Australia”

However, Energy Minister Martin Ferguson's announcement late last night of which “winners” he has picked for the first round of the Solar Flagships funding reveals a government that does not understand the solar energy advances that have already passed muster overseas.

“Flagships should never have included funding for photovoltaic projects because that solar technology does not presently have storage capabilities allowing it to dispatch energy when the sun doesn't shine,” said Wright.

ACS Cobra’s solar thermal Flagships application was excluded from funding, even though energy experts agree that it is the most promising renewable energy proposal in Australia.

“It’s absurd that the Rudd government’s budget failed to invest in ACS Cobra’s projects. The company is building one third of the world's commercial scale solar thermal plants and is the only company to have
commercial plants operating that dispatch power 24 hours,” Mr Wright

ACS Cobra is the only company that met the government's criteria that specified a plant had to be operating for 12 months with a capacity of at least 30MWe.

“It is clear the government has failed to follow its own guidelines,” said Wright. “I believe some of the shortlisted choices the government has made show it is obsessed with validating existing coal facilities
and supporting the most basic and primitive solar technologies that have been long superceded by more recent commercial developments in the field of solar energy.”

The imperative of energy storage has also been ignored by the flagship's shortlist selection.

“Without currently available molten salts storage a Solar thermal plant can not produce baseload power. It seems like the government is hell bent on supporting the status quo and making sure that the baseload myth is not busted.”

The generation of Linear Fresnel technology that has been chosen for two of the four solar thermal projects generates low temperatures and has been likened by engineers to having "warm water in the desert." 

"The choice of low temperature solar thermal will equal low efficiency"

“In Spain and the US, Solar power plants will be built this year that run more hours of a year at equivalent full output than NSW coal fired power plants. That's baseload Solar. That's baseload renewables. That's the future just around the corner, which the Australian government is blind to,” said Mr Wright.

For further information or comment, contact Matthew Wright, Executive
Director of Beyond Zero Emissions