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Why is Australia Wasting Money On A $650 Million+ Solar Plant Using A Failed Technology?

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A Solar Thermal Plant in Australia

Australia is planning to build a 110 MW solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta for AU $650 million (USD $510 million). The plant will be built by SolarReserve which is a USA based solar developer.  While many Australian experts are hailing the move, I am completely perplexed why the Australian government is building such an expensive plant for a low capacity using a technology which is hardly being used anywhere else in the world – solar thermal technology. The PV technology using silicon solar panels is now so much more cost effective and cheap that it does not make sense to build a plant with solar thermal.

Solar thermal plant

Also, read Another $5 billion solar thermal pipedream in California which will not see the light of the day

Solar PV plants can easily be built at a cost of around $1/watt if not lower, while solar thermal plant being built by SolarReserve is costing around $4.5/watt as per the press reports. This is a huge cost for the Australian taxpayers. The only benefit for the solar thermal plant is that it will provide storage but that can easily be done for solar PV plants by using lithium battery storage which will definitely cost lower than the huge difference between the prices of solar thermal and solar PV technology.

You might also like Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Thermal Energy 

Solar Thermal Plants Issues

Also, solar thermal plant’s technology is facing concerns with news of plant closures and operational issues. It will take almost three years to build the solar thermal plant while an equivalent solar PV plant can easily be built in six months or so. Besides the technology and operational issues, solar thermal plants also use much more water which is not the case with solar PV plants. The competitiveness of solar PV plants is also much higher with multiple companies working in this space. In case, SolarReserve goes bankrupt which could easily happen given that multiple solar thermal companies have gone bankrupt as the technology has become obsolete, the future of the Australian plant could be in jeopardy.

The company proposing to build a $650 million solar thermal power plant in South Australia suffered an eight-month shutdown of a facility using the same technology in the United States.But the State Government is confident it will not experience problems here.California-based firm SolarReserve will fund and build a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta and supply the State Government with all of its power needs over a 20-year contract.Media reports by multiple news outlets in the US show that a $1 billion facility in the Nevada desert, also owned by SolarReserve, was taken offline last October and only began generating electricity again late last month.

Source: Adelaide Now


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

4 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Sudeep

    Sneha please check the per watt cost of lithium ion batteries. Companies in USA who were doing R&D to bring down the cost of battery storage have filed for bankruptcy owing to non availability of further finance from VCs including Microsoft. Also PV plants have recurring cost of inverter every 5 years and battery every 3 years depending on the discharge cycle.

  2. Doug W

    Interested to hear you reference solar thermal as a “failed technology” Can you clarify on what basis you are making this statement? As one of the few people world wide to have had direct involvement in the start up and operation of a solar thermal project, your statements and opinions do not seem to align with my experience.

  3. Sneha Shah

    Hi Doug,

    Thanks for writing! There has been a constant debate between Solar PV and thermal technology. While, Solar PV technology has been gaining popularity worldwide, the thermal technology has failed to catch up. Compare the costs of setting up for instance.Solar PV installation is expected to be around ~90 GW this year, how about the other one? Please feel free to por in your thoughts. Thanks!