Coal smoke stacks fall as solar blooms in SA

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Australia’s politically-contentious energy transition, which is being led by South Australia, was vividly illustrated last week. While the 80-meter smoke stack at the 240 MW Playford B coal fired power plant was demolished, the commissioning of the state’s first utility scale solar array took place. Additionally, CSP developer Solar Reserve opened a new office – all in the Port Augusta region, north of Adelaide.

The footage of the chimney stack demolition, carried out through the use of an explosive charge at its base, is a powerful symbol of the fundamental shift in electricity supply currently underway in the state.

Unsurprisingly, the conservative media did not miss the chance to take a swipe at the pro-renewables state government and Premier Jay Weatherill, who had attended the opening of the state’s first PV power plant.

Describing the Labor Party government as being, “ideologically opposed to coal,” The Australian newspaper noted that the closure of the nearby Norther Power Station had delivered a triple blow to the state.

“The power plant closed in May 2016, resulting in the loss of 185 jobs, significant spikes in power prices, and a lack of energy security in South Australia,” Adelaide-based journalist Luke Griffiths wrote in The Australian.

Demolition at the Northern Power Station is underway, and its 200-metre stack is set to be toppled mid-2018.

While the Whyalla Solar Farm, the opening of which Weatherill attended last week, is relatively small at 6 MW, it is the first of a cumulative 18 MW project in the region. A further 200 MW of utility scale PV is also planned nearby in a separate development, as a part of a plan to revive the Whyalla steel works using cheap renewable energy.