Whyalla solar plant in doubt over Commonwealth funding

Plans to build a $230 million solar thermal power plant in Whyalla, South Australia, are in jeopardy after the Federal Government withdrew $60 million in funding for the project.

In 2010, the $60 million grant was secured by a consortium of clean energy companies known as Solar Oasis for the 40MW pilot concentrated solar power (CSP) plant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

With the largest parabolic solar dishes in the world, the station was expected to generate enough electricity to power the town’s residential and light industry sectors.

According to ARENA chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht, funding was withdrawn because the project failed to meet condition precedents within the agreed timeframe. The outstanding conditions have not been revealed. However, Tony Robey, founder of Wizard Power – the company behind the technology – told ABC PM the conditions were impeded by government delays. As a result, Wizard Power has been forced into administration.

A new application for funding can be made. If alternative funding is sourced and the project proceeds, the Solar Oasis will offer construction work for around 200 people.

The Solar Oasis project would generate 66GWh annually from 300 Wizard Power Big Dish concentrators. The dish generates temperatures of more than 1500°C by concentrating sunlight.