Line limits nobble solar-thermal power station

Vast Solar's prototype concentrated solar-thermal power station at Jemalong NSW.

A COMPANY intending to build a $200 million solar thermal power station north of the town has shelved its plans because the transmission network would not handle the load. In an email to Murweh shire council, Vast Solar managing director Craig Wood said it had halted development of the project, which the firm claimed would created about 200 jobs during construction and another 25 on-going jobs during operations.

He said two major issues had been identified that would limit the output and feasibility of the project, rendering it uneconomic. The thermal rating of the line, believed to be 49 megawatts, had been revised down to seven megawatts. The minimum short-circuit ratios required meant the plant would have to be built closer to stronger points of the electricity grid near Roma where the solar resource was not as favourable as Charleville.

Mayor Annie Liston said the announcement was a letdown after 18 months of negotiations with the company that had tested the technology at a one-megawatt pilot plant at Jemalong, near Forbes in NSW. Vast had planned to build the power station at the Raceview property, after also considering siting it at Lesdale. “Ergon told them when they put some plant out here and started doing some testing, that they realised the lines weren’t big enough,” she said. “It was very disappointing for us. We saw it as another positive for Murweh and for the economy. But it is what it is.”

An Ergon spokesman said the company explored a network connection request for a 30-megawatt solar thermal plant near Charleville. Ergon subsequently identified limitations on the existing network that will not support a 30MW connection and substantially less capacity than required,” he said. “Ergon is maintaining discussions with the customer.”

Shire CEO Neil Polglase said the council would be seeking assurances from Ergon about the capacity of the line and he understood the company was looking at another site northeast of the district.

 “Council is very very disappointed and have real concerns in regards to the information given to council about that plant,” he said. “We’ve lost potentially a $200m project and a whole range benefits associated with it. We anticipated anywhere between 200 and 250 jobs for at least 18 months during construction and permanent workforce of about 25 to 30.”

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