Bob Brown, Christine Milne and their Australian Greens cohorts are big advocates for solar power - both photovoltaic (PV) and thermal concentrated solar power (CSP) farms. However, there has been a woeful lack of media scrutiny of the viability of these two technologies with regard to their practicality and cost effectiveness.
Looking at PV farms, the Federal Government has made a big song and dance about a new solar PV installation planned for Moree in NSW. The Government is claiming the new $923 million Moree plant, which will occupy about 11 square kilometres and have a nameplate installed capacity of 150MW, will be the largest PV installation in the world.
The Government claims that the Moree plant will generate 400GWH a year, an unusually high capacity factor of 30% as there are few PV plants anywhere in the world that have a capacity factor of more than 20%.
However, taking the Government at its word, how many $923 million PV plants like Moree would be needed to replace the first coal fired plant that the Greens have in their sights, Hazelwood?
The answer is quite simple to calculate. Hazelwood, which generates about 25% of the state of Victoria's electricity produces a bit less than 12000GWH a year. Therefore, leaving aside baseload considerations (PV plants only produce power when the sun is shining), it would take 30 PV plants like Moree costing about $30 billion just to replace Hazelwood.
Now let's consider what it would cost to replace Australia's electricity production with PV farms. Australian plants produce about 250,000GWH a year. Therefore, if we were to try replacing that with PV farms like Moree we would need 625 such installations costing more than $600 billion!