BRISBANE, Australia, April 13 (UPI) -- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Wednesday the approval of a 44 megawatt solar energy system on the site of an existing coal-fired power station in Queensland.
When built, the $104.7 million Kogan Creek Solar Boost project will be the largest integration of solar technology with a coal-fired power station in the world and the largest solar project in the Southern Hemisphere.
The project will use concentrated solar power technology from Mountain View, Calif.-based AREVA Solar to convert the sun's energy into super-heated steam which will drive the power station's turbines, supplementing the conventional coal-fired steam generation process.
The existing 750 megawatt Kogan Creek Power Station is owned by CS Energy, a Queensland government-owned corporation that owns and operates four Queensland power stations.
"Already Kogan Creek Power Station is one of the largest and most energy efficient power stations in Australia's electricity market," said CS Energy Chief Executive David Brown, in a statement. "By using energy from the sun, we will increase the station's capacity to meet the growing demand for electricity, increase its fuel efficiency and reduce its greenhouse intensity -- avoiding the production of 35,600 tons of greenhouse gases annually."
With the solar boost, Kogan can produce more electricity with the same amount of coal, he said.
CS Energy is funding $70 million for the project, $35.4 million of which was redirected from a contribution by the Queensland government to the company's carbon reduction program; the Australian Government's Renewable Energy Demonstration Program is contributing more than $34 million.
Construction is slated to begin this year, with completion scheduled for 2013.
"I am very confident this project is going to be a standout -- a standout in Australia, a standout in the world -- about how power generation can be changed to give us a cleaner-energy future," Gillard said Wednesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports.
In separate news, Sydney-based renewable energy company CBD Energy announced it will form a joint venture with Chinese companies China Datang Renewable Power Co. and Tianwei Baobian Electric Co. with plans to build $6 billion worth of wind and solar plants in Australia within eight years, the Queensland Courier-Mail newspaper reports in its Thursday edition.
CBD said a final agreement would be signed Monday.
Coal-fired power stations, known for high carbon dioxide emissions, now generate about 80 percent of Australia's electricity. Wind and solar power account for less than 1 percent.