NSW moves on big solar while Victoria lags behind

The following post is by Yes 2 Renewables volunteer, Jasmine Coghetto:

The NSW Government has approved a pioneering solar power station in Broken Hill and will invest $64.9 million in the project. Victoria’s northern neighbour is leaving the state in the dust as it moves ahead with big solar projects.

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The 50-megawatt Broken Hill solar project will install 650,000 photovoltaic modules five kilometres from the remote regional town. It will generate 125,000 MWh of electricity every year, meeting the needs of around 17,000 NSW households. Over 110,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions will be avoided each year—the equivalent of removing 31,000 cars from the road.

Clean, zero-carbon electricity isn’t the only benefit of the Broken Hill plant.  The project will make a significant contribution to regional job creation and economic development. Up to 150 direct, local construction jobs will be generated during the 17-month construction period.

In contrast to its neighbour, Victoria is lagging behind when it comes to big solar projects. Even though there has been some progress toward renewables, this achievement cannot be compared to the step taken by NSW.

The Victorian State Government has invested $10 million in the next phase of the Solar System project, which will see the installation of a 1.5 MW pilot plant near Mildura. This is on top of the $5 million previously invested in a 600-kilowatt solar array at Bridgewater. Unfortunately, the scale of these investments is small and the progress is slow. Victorians will have to wait a while before the state builds a sizable solar power plant.

Screen shot 2013-04-04 at 10.46.10 AMBeyond Zero Emissions’ Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan (PDF) identifies Mildura as a solar energy hub. The groundbreaking research estimates Victoria’s north west could one day host 3500 MW of large-scale solar.

Beyond Zero Emissions researchers recommend concentrating solar thermal power plants, rather than the photovoltaic plant backed byt the NSW government. This is for the simple reason of energy storage. CST power plants feature innovative molten salt storage capabilities that allow them to dispatch electricity to the grid when needed.

The Napthine government must take action to advance critically important solar energy projects. If it fails to invest solar and fails to create a environment that attracts cleantech developers, then they put the state’s solar energy future at risk.

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