Port Augusta farewells coal, welcomes solar thermal

Port Augusta power station. Image by Tim Phillips Photos
Port Augusta power station. Image by Tim Phillips Photos

The last day of generation at Alinta Energy’s coal-fired power stations has been marked as a “bittersweet” moment in history for the regional South Australian town of Port Augusta.

The shut down has put about 185 employees out of work, 140 of who stayed until the end.

Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson said the power plants have provided work and a significant economic injection for the region throughout its history.

“We’re starting a new chapter in our history; today marks the closure of an industry after 62 years of operation,” he said.

“Some people have made a full career and life out of working for Playford A, B or Northern power stations, I know one chap who worked there for the best part of 46 years.

“It’s obviously a sad day and a positive day marking where we’ve been in our history.”

Former mayor Joy Baluch and former deputy mayor Phil Greagen were long-time campaigners for the closure of the plant, which Mr Greagen said was linked to health problems in the rural city.

Ms Baluch campaigned to have the coal-fired power stations replaced with solar-thermal technology, Mr Greagen told ABC News.

Alinta has already outlined its two-year plan for the demolition of the power stations, with the chimney of the Northern Power Station expected to be felled by mid-2017.

While Port Augusta searches for industries that will replace the economic contribution of the power stations, Mayor Johnson said he believed the future for the town lay in renewable energy and transport.

Alinta Energy, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and the Government of South Australia have committed to jointly funding a two-year Port Augusta Solar Thermal Generation Feasibility Study.

The study involves a full feasibility and technological analysis of solar thermal power generation, including hybridised and standalone options, over the Port Augusta Power Stations (Northern Power Stations 1 and 2, and Playford B Power Station) with a view to future development of large-scale solar at site.

Hundreds turned up on April 29 to see the 3km-long train coal train leave Port Augusta’s Northern and Playford B power stations, and the Leigh Creek coal mine, for the lsat time.