Author: Tom Rohde
The mayor of a South Australian regional port city built on the steel industry and iron ore mining says it could pair with a neighbouring centre to become the nation’s hub for renewable energy.
Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer said she hoped her city could team up with Port Augusta 80 kilometres away to make the plan a reality.
Regional South Australian cities have seen several energy projects announced over the past year, with construction on a new solar thermal power station in Port Augusta to start early this year.
In October last year, Whyalla steelworks owner Sanjeev Gupta announced that he had approved a plan worth up to $700 million for solar, battery storage and pumped hydro, with 200 megawatts of solar photovoltaics at Whyalla.
SA’s clean-energy projects
- A hybrid power station is being built at Coober Pedy. The hope is that the outback community can be powered solely by solar, wind and diesel energy
- Investors have funded a $300m solar battery-power plant at Roxby Downs
- A wind, solar and battery farm is planned at Crystal Brook in the state’s mid north
- A 100 megawatt solar powered facility is being built at Tailem Bend
- US-based company Solar Reserve is seeking federal support for a $650 million solar-thermal project in Port Augusta
- Zen Energy wants to build a solar power plant in the Upper Spencer Gulf
Mr Gupta is an Indian-born, Cambridge-educated, environmentally-minded billionaire.
When he took over the struggling steelworks last year he said the steelworks had an “exciting future”.
Ms Breuer said there were lots of big possibilities for the city. “I think our industry will diversify,” she said.
“We’ll no longer be just an industrial and a mining town, there’s a whole range of other options open for us.”
Ms Breuer said wind power and hydro power were two options the town was looking into.
Already a renewables hub
“We just need to get the approvals and we can go ahead.”
Port Augusta’s mayor Sam Johnson said he believed the region was already becoming a hub for renewable energy.
“Port Augusta will, and I believe actually is becoming the renewable capital of Australia and there’s no doubt that Whyalla is a direct link into that.
“There’s some really great synergies between Port Augusta and Whyalla in what’s becoming a new and exciting industry.”
Mr Johnson said he would be willing to work with Whyalla — sometimes referred to as Steel City — to expand green technologies in the region.
“The upper Spencer Gulf cities have all worked very strongly and collectively together to make sure that we are all prosperous and make sure that we are all going to be sustainable moving into the future.
“We’re all in this together.”
Back-up power an issue
Despite the hope for a renewable hub, the member for Grey, Mr Rowan Ramsey, said back-up power should be considered.
“At this stage, most renewable energy is intermittent,” he said.
“Whilst it’s sometimes predictable it’s not always and it leads to short term supply.”
Mr Ramsey said the renewable technology should be backed up with gas, diesel or energy storage.
He said the storage issue was of great importance to South Australia due to the state’s reliability on renewable technology.
“You couple [back up power and energy storage] together and the region at the upper end of the Spencer Gulf could be a real hotspot for renewable energy.”