Frequent questions and answers about the SEXI Proposal
- What is the SEXI Proposal ? What does it involve ?
It is a proposal to undertake six projects. Each project would cost about thirty million dollars (+/- $10 M). One project is a PV solar panel project. Each Council would install $1M of solar panels on its facilities. This would benefit ratepayers, by reducing Councils electricity bills. Five projects would be concentrating solar power projects. Mirrors focus the sunlight, and the heat produced is converted into electricity.
- How much does it cost ? Who pays for this ?
The SEXI Proposal will cost $200 M. For comparison, this is about the cost of a base hospital or a jail – Orange Base Hospital cost $250 M in 2011; Wellington jail cost $125 M in 2007. Interestingly, the SEXI Proposal is almost exactly the same cost as the purchase price of one aeroplane – the proposed F 35 Joint Strike Fighter, which each cost $213M to buy (and extra to run). The five demonstration solar power plants will cost about $30M each. This is about the same cost as the shopping centre renovations underway at Orana Mall, Dubbo. The SEXI Group is seeking full funding for the SEXI Proposal from the Federal Government. Currently, the funding arm of the Federal Government for renewable energy projects is ARENA.
- Why are Government funds needed ? Why cannot private industry do this ?
Private industry is perfectly free to do this on its own. Solar power stations have around for 100 years. But the private sector has not undertaken these projects. The private sector has not built a solar power station without some public funding in NSW in the last 100 years. So Government funds are needed to get the solar power stations built. If the SEXI Proposal is funded, it is very likely that Government funds will be paid to private building contractors / construction companies, who would construct the solar power plants. Demonstration plants are more expensive on a per MW basis. The first of a kind plants are more expensive to build. The plants will make a small operating profit; but will not make a return on capital.
- Which towns will get the CSP plants ?
The SEXI Board has a representative from each of the 32 Councils. The SEXI Board will decide which five towns will get a medium scale solar power station.
- What technologies will be used in the solar plants ?
Each of the five solar power plants will be a different technology. The SEXI Board would be advised by solar technology experts. The demonstration plants will show the strengths and weaknesses of each of the technologies used; and allow some of the technical or operational problems to be highlighted and solved.
- How much does a concentrating solar power plant cost ? What employment will it create ?
The solar power plants will cost about $30M each. They will create about 15 to 20 jobs, for one to 2 years, during construction. They will produce 2 to 3 full time jobs, for the CSP plant operators.
- What will the solar plant do ?
The CSP plants are in the range of 3 MW to 6 MW. This is about the size to provide power for a 3000 population country town. Some CSP technologies can store heat, and produce electricity at night, when the sun has gone down. The electricity produced would be sold into the grid; and most would probably be consumed by the towns residents. If the solar plant was not working or was turned off, the residents would be supplied with electricity from the grid, just as they are now. If it produced too much electricity, excess would flow into the grid and be used in other towns.
- Is there enough room to build a CSP plant ?
On the edge of most country towns is a “transformer yard”, or zone substation. The CSP plant would be connected to the zone substation. So it would likely be within 3 kilometres of the substation. It would require between 10 and 30 hectares of land – a ploughed paddock or pasture / rangeland would be preferred. There are 82 zone and transmission substations in the SEXI area. Constraint mapping has been completed on 71 of these. Potential sites at 55 of the 71 substations appear to be excellent /very favourable; and 12 appear to be favourable. Only 4 appear on preliminary inspection to be unfavourable/ require review. As we are only seeking to construct five CSP plants, there are more than enough potential sites.
- Are the solar power plants dangerous ?
Any piece of electrical equipment or industrial machinery involves some danger. But no, they are not considered any more dangerous that most other pieces of electrical or industrial equipment. The power station sites would be fenced. Like most welding yards, factories etc they would not have open public access.
- Have solar power plants been built before ?
There are two medium scale solar CSP power plants in NSW, with a third one being built. There are experimental solar CSP institutes at Newcastle and Canberra. Two PV solar panel farms are being built – one at Nyngan and one at Broken Hill. There is experimental PV work at University of New South Wales. There are many solar power stations overseas.