How Queensland’s Kogan Creek Solar Boost project was launched to great fanfare but quietly died

How Queensland‘s Kogan Creek Solar Boost project was launched to great fanfare but quietly died, by Mark Solomons.

It was supposed to supply cheaper, greener energy to up to 5000 homes but after six years and tens of millions of dollars, a cutting-edge solar energy project has produced nothing other than a large taxpayer-funded pile of scrap. …

The plan had been to use thousands of mirrors to focus solar energy to pre-heat steam used to drive power-generating turbines. …

Three thousand solar panels sit unused on a concrete pad after the pioneering Kogan Creek Solar Boost project was shelved. …

Lots of government involvement and money:

The technology’s inventor, Australian scientist Dr David Mills, in 2014 received an Order Of Australia for his work on solar power from the Abbott government.

But CS Energy scrapped the unfinished scheme last year, blaming “technical and contractual problems”. It won’t reveal exactly how much it cost, but recorded a $70 million impairment in its 2016 accounts because of the scheme.

Half that amount came from the Queensland Government’s Carbon Reduction Program.

Commonwealth body the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was to put up an additional $35 million in funding, although it told Fairfax Media it ended up handing over only $6.4 million. …

Problems include:

CS Energy pointed to steam pipes that rusted in the Queensland climate and “rapidly moving clouds”. …

What weak excuses. Pipes aren’t that expensive to replace. Clouds come and go, as is well-known.

A shipment of steel Areva imported from China was of such poor quality it had to be buried as scrap; then a company in Newcastle making another key component went into administration.

At one stage Areva flew 40 workers to the site from the US but they arrived without appropriate safety gear or training. “They had no safety boots, they thought it was alright to go on site with normal shoes. I said: ‘Pack them back on the plane’.”

Unused solar reflectors aren’t worth anything? Is solar power that undesirable?

Dalby businessman Hermes Speziali … said his company had tried to find potential buyers for the thousands of unused solar reflectors “and we couldn’t find any takers. … That’s the saddest thing. The people who made the decisions, they’re all on fat salaries and they’re sweet.

CS Energy said it was decommissioning the solar thermal site at Kogan Creek and “salvaging what it can in the most value accretive way for the business”

Here’s what the article, in the left-leaning Sydney Morning Herald, doesn’t say: Another catastrophic failure in green energy and public money destroyed.

Did the ABC report it? I’ve searched their news website for “Kogan Creek solar” and found only an article from 2014 on the technical hitches being encountered, a 2009 article on the 600 jobs being created by solar power, a 2011 opinion piece extolling renewables, a 2011 article “Gillard spruiks massive solar power project”, and a 2010 article on climate and energy. No mention that it had failed, as far as I can see, let alone the headline articles about a catastrophic failure of a government-financed solar plant.

On a per capita basis, Kogan Creek was a bigger loser than Solyndra, a US failure that is at least fairly well-known. Did well to keep the news about Kogan Creek from getting out, eh ABC?

I’ve been following solar energy for 40 years, having got interested in it as a teenager in the last energy crisis in the 1970s. I’ve noticed a pattern. Some solar plant is announced, often using a new technology and usually funded partly by taxpayer dollars, and it is trumpeted in the news. They go off into the desert or wherever and are building it, still building it, … Then, mysteriously, you never hear about it again. At least not on the news; if you dig around, you find it failed in some way. Kogan Creek is yet another to be born to the sounds of ideological trumpets, but die in silence. You’d think people would be catching on by now. But the media are censoring the news, by omitting the facts that aren’t helpful to the narrative.

Joanne Nova is too kind:

Another award winning solar project collapses: it was a $105 million dollar scheme. One company, Areva, lost about $50m and so did the taxpayer. … Only 5000 homes? That’s $20,000 per house which doesn’t sound like “cheap” electricity.  Solar is so dismal that even bulk solar power in the sunniest spot in the world was going to take years to break even — and that’s if it worked.

Fans of renewables will cite the management problems as the reason for the failure, not some inherent problem with solar. But the “Clean Energy Culture” is the problem — the same pathetic, uninformed and corrupt decision-making that subsidizes solar so unnecessarily also creates the same dud decisions in management, legal, and industrial relations. The environment that makes a complicated, uneconomic project look appealing because it might change storms a hundred years from now is the kind of culture that piles up toxic Green Tape, buys crappy steel, and can’t accomplish something as simple as getting pipes off a flooded dock. And that was six years ago and we are just hearing about it now thanks to the Clean Energy Media Brain.

hat-tip Andrew