OpinionWhy NSW should build modern coal-fired power stations

By , 17/12/2018 16:21

POWER PLAN: The state must act now to plan and build 21st century coal fired power stations, like this one in China, the author says.An article in the Herald on March 1 described a proposed $200 million upgrade of Bayswater Power Station. The upgrade will increase Baywater’s generation capacity by 100 megawatts without using any additional coal. Twenty-first century technology is being applied to a 30-year-old power plant and look at the increase in performance.

It is a step towards replacing the 2000 megawatts of electricity which NSW is losing with the closure of Liddell. But it is not nearly enough.

AGL is to be commended for starting the process to replace Liddell Power Station. AGL’s other plans include the installation of 1600 megawatts of renewables to generate electricity. This is also commendable, but AGL could not afford to replace all of Liddell’s 2000 megawatts with renewables.

When the 500 megawatt Topaz Solar Power Station was built in California in 2015 it cost $2.5 billion. At the time it was the biggest and most efficient solar plant in the world. But it only works 25 per cent of the time because there are cloudy days and night time. Liddell Power Station could generate 2000 megawatts 24/7.

To totally replace Liddell Power Station with a solar power plant AGL would have to build not a 2000 megawatt solar plant, which would cost $10 billion, but an 8000 megawatt power plant, which would cost $40 billion.Then AGL would have to build 6000 megawatts of battery storage so NSW can have electricity at night and during cloudy days. Based on the cost of the Tesla battery storage in SA ($50 million for 100 megawatts), it would cost AGL another $3 billion to build 6000 megawatts of storage.

All up, the cost to replace Liddell Power Station with a solar power plant would be $43 billion, which AGL could not afford nor could NSW.The Topaz solar plant covers 25 square kilometres, so a replacement solar power plant for Liddell would cover 400 square kilometres, which is an area twice the size of Newcastle.

Let’s consider an alternative. The world’s cleanest and most efficient coal fired power station is Japan’s Isogo Power Plant. The power plant is on a peninsula on Tokyo Bay in the city of Yokohama.The equivalent location in Newcastle would be Walsh Point on Kooragang Island. The Isogo Power Plant uses two million tonnes of Hunter coal a year.

Modern 21st century coal fired power stations are so much cleaner than Liddell or Bayswater that they can be built in a city. The cost of replacing Liddell Power Station with a 21st century coal fired power station is an affordable $2 billion, and not the unaffordable $43 billion for a replacement solar plant.

Over the past few years NSW has lost 2800 megawatts of electricity generation with the closure of Munmorah, Wallerawang and Red Bank power stations. NSW must be realistic about future-proofing a 24/7, reliable source of electricity. Renewables are not going to do it.

We have to be smarter. NSW must do what Japan is doing and build some modern coal fired powered stations. Bayswater Power Station’s generators were built by a Japanese company – Toshiba. Why doesn’t NSW use modern day Japanese technology to build new coal fired power plants?

Otherwise, come 2022 when Liddell Power Station closes, NSW will have lost a total of 4800 megawatts of generation in a 10-year period. We are heading for an electricity, and hence an economic, disaster.

Robert Monteath is a registered surveyor and a certified practising planner

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