Labor’s Solar Flagships: Smoke and Mirrors…and Coal Seam Gas

Picture: The Gemasolar baseload solar power tower in Spain.

The Federal Government's choice of picking French state owned nuclear giant Areva to build a Solar plant based on out‐dated technology is a move that has surprised the climate and energy security think‐tank Beyond Zero Emissions. The proposed plant near the controversial coal seam gas fields at Chinchilla is a missed opportunity to build Australia’s first baseload solar plant.

“The rest of the world is seizing the opportunity to use low‐cost molten salt energy storage technology to build truly baseload solar thermal power plants” says Mark Ogge, renewable energy campaigner, Beyond Zero Emissions.

“Surprisingly the Gillard government has picked outdated and inferior linear technology with gas backup in a cynical attempt to justify destructive coal seam gas extraction on prime agricultural land in Queensland’s Darling Downs,” says Ogge.

“As people now realise that renewable energy can provide baseload power, the main excuse for coal seam gas extraction evaporates.”

“It is ironic that just as the Spanish unveil the Gemasolar power tower plant near Seville, that runs fifteen hours flat out into the night with molten salt energy storage, providing utility scale baseload solar power to the Spanish grid, the Australian government chooses inferior low efficiency linear Fresnel technology with completely unnecessary gas backup.”

“Spain now has seven baseload molten salt solar power plants up and running. The US is building a 1000 MW solar thermal plant with 6 hours storage, equivalent in size to a large coal fired power station. Solar gas hybrid technology is 30 years out of date, and linear Fresnel technology is far inferior to efficient high temperature power towers.”

“If the government is serious about developing a renewable energy industry, it would put in place a Feed in Tariff for renewable energy at all scales and for all renewable technologies, based on the highly successful German model which has already achieved rapid cost reductions in commercial renewable technologies. While the government is quick to suggest they are not in the business of ‘picking winners’, the Solar Flagships announcement has actually shown they are picking losers."

"Feed in Tariffs have shown to be the most successful market‐based mechanism for developing a strong portfolio of renewable energy technologies, and will leave the market to decide the most suitable technologies, rather than Energy Minister Martin Ferguson’s favourite of the Solar Flagships beauty pageant.”

“Australian’s are now waking to the reality that renewables don’t need gas as backup, leaving no more justification for any further development of the dangerous gas industry. We should take the shortcut that the US and Europe are taking and move straight to baseload solar plants, that not only store the suns energy for night time, but dynamically provide the backup needed for other renewables such as wind power and rooftop solar."