By Paul Hemsley
South Australian Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Tom Koustantonis has announced a parliamentary inquiry into the use of solar thermal energy to replace coal used for electricity generation the government amid fears that supplies of the fossil fuel from the Leigh Creek mine will cease to be viable.
The probe into solar power comes as South Australian government tries to find a safety net for the state’s power supplies in the form of alternative and sustainable energy sources.
To push the issue, the government has supported a motion by Member for Stuart, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, to up a select committee to consider the latest available information on solar thermal energy.
Specifically, committee will inquire into a proposal to replace Alinta Energy’s Northern and Playford coal-fired power stations at Port Augusta with a concentrated solar thermal plant.
The practicalities of building a plant near Port Augusta will also be examined.
Alinta Energy previously considered a solar thermal energy plant at its Port Augusta site in July, which would work aside the coal-fired plant.
Mr Koutsantonis said the government has set an “ambitious target” to make renewable technology the source of 33 per cent of the state’s energy by 2020.
“Already, if South Australia was a country we would be second in the world when it comes to generating power through renewable technology,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
He said solar, wind, geothermal and wave power all have to be considered to reach the government’s 2020 targets.
“Advances are now being made in solar thermal technology and energy storage that might soon make it commercially feasible to harness the sun’s rays for baseload power,” he said.
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