by Peter Carruthers
THE concept behind a community-run thermal solar plant has "enormous potential” to relieve the increasing burden imposed by soaring electricity costs according to Proserpine Canegrowers.
Prosperine Canegrowers manager Mike Porter said he had discussed the thermal solar energy solution with community advocate Paul Jukes and said the project was worthy of further investigation.
The idea is a clean, community-owned solution using technology known as a central tower power plant to generate from between 100 and 200 megawatt of electricity which could meet the energy demands of up to 50,000 homes.
It has the potential to reduce irrigator costs from the 19 cents currently paid under tariff 65 to 15 cents per kw/h.
For domestic power users, the savings would be greatly increased.
The central tower technology is already a commercial reality in Spain and North America and generates power through a field of thousands of tracking mirrors.
The sun's rays are reflected into a central tower where the sun heats molten salt, the molten salt is then used to create steam to drive turbines and power can be exported to the grid.
This week the SolarReserve 150MW thermal solar plant received state development approval in South Australia.
"The concept is very good and I understand the concept has been proven overseas. It is clean and renewable and we certainly like that idea,” Mr Porter said.
Driving the Whitsunday community's plan to build a $800 million facility - possibly at an unremediated coal mine at Collinsville - is Brandy Creek local Mr Jukes.
Mr Jukes said the SolReflections project was looking to benefit from the knowledge Prosperine cane growers had with the running of a community asset operated by a c-operative.
"(Mr Jukes) is looking at a co-operative type of structure for our organisation here and the previous mill was run by a co-operative so I think he was quizzing us on how effective our co-operative was on being able to deliver and manage this type of infrastructure,” Mr Porter said. "The concept is great and the actual vehicle he is going to use to deliver this there is few hurdles you have to go through.
"It has enormous potential and I would like to see it progress but I think it's one of those projects that is going to take a few years of investigation and study to get it off the ground. But I an certainly keen to see it come to fruition.”