A BORDER environmental group yesterday floated a plan to build a huge solar thermal power plant on the Border.
But the member for Indi, Sophie Mirabella, immediately played down the idea and told the organisation not to get its hopes up.
Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health believes a solar plant costing about $300 million could ensure renewable power for about 10,000 Border houses.
It wants the federal government’s $10 billion Clean Energy Fund to help pay for the project.
But Mrs Mirabella said while the plant was a great aspiration, the group “should not get too excited” it could get money from a fund established after Labor Party and Greens carbon-tax negotiations.
The government this week ended its $1000 rebate for solar hot water systems.
Mrs Mirabella said that showed the government was not serious about renewable energy.
“People should not get too excited about this $10 billion,” she said.
“If you judge the government on what its done recently, we won’t see much of it put to good use.
“It’s important people have great aspirations, but people shouldn’t look through rose-coloured glasses.”
Mrs Mirabella said the Coalition supported investment in renewable energy, and would commit funding through its direct-action plan.
Chairman of the Border group, Lauriston Muirhead, said while the group was apolitical, it needed support from the government for a solar power plant.
He said Bandiana could be a suitable site for a solar plant similar to those already built in Spain, Saudi Arabia and the US.
Solar enthusiast and director of PSE Communication & Electrical in Rutherglen, Paul Shelley, visited a solar thermal site in Spain two months ago, and said a similar project in Albury-Wodonga could take about 24 months to build and produce about 230 jobs.
Mr Muirhead said Australia needed to get on board with big solar projects to avoid constantly rising prices of coal-produced electricity.
“Coal is running out, each time you burn coal there is less you will find in the ground and it costs more,” he said.
“But the sun never runs out. It’s an endless resource.”
The Border group will be carrying out a survey to gauge support for a solar plant.