Saturday, 18 June 2011

With opinion polls hammering Labor under Prime Minister Julia Gillard, some good news was due and it took the form of an announcement of two new utility-scale solar power plants to be built in Australia. The news appeared here and here but it didn't make the Saturday night news, no doubt disappointing the PR personnel in Gillard's battered camp.

The plants will use different technologies. One, to be built in Queensland, secured $464 million toward construction of a 250MW plant. The other, for New South Wales, secured $306.5 million toward construction of a 150MW plant. Both of the deals come under the federal government's Solar Flagships program.

They are due to be completed an in service by 2015 but we've seen other Solar Flagships projects stall due to a refusal by the government to release funding as a result of incomplete execution. But these are details. Most important for Gillard at this point is to push through a dose of good news. In any case, by the time any hold-ups emerge the political climate can have altered a lot and the story may be a dead one, nothing to see here, move along.

Glitches in renewable power projects have usually been too soft to qualify for the feature spot in the media but with the carbon tax continuing its damaging run from the government's point of view, maybe the journos will keep an eye on how these two new projects develop. We'll see if the same sluggish pace that Solar Systems made in pursuit of its Victorian plant eventuates in these cases. Gillard is talking them up, which suggests some sort of commitment on the part of the government to making sure they run all the way through construction, commissioning and full-time operation with effective links to the existing power grid.

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