The Australian government is to investigate the feasibility of converting a coal-fired power plant in Queensland into a hybrid power plant based on solar thermal and gas-fired technologies.

The government says it will contribute A$2.5 million towards the feasibility project through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The study, with a total cost of A$5.6 million, will assess the viability of converting Queensland’s 180 MW Collinsville power station to a 30 MW hybrid solar thermal-gas power station.

A key benefit of the study will be an increased understanding of solar thermal and hybrid power generating technologies, said Australian Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson.

"The results of the study will be made publicly available in order to assist interested parties overcome the challenges of early deployment of concentrating solar thermal," Ferguson said.

"Such information will include the overall technical feasibility of converting thermal coal fired power stations to solar thermal plants, its costs, the solar yield, network connection and other issues."

Conversion of the Collinsville power station to a hybrid plant would involve making as much use of the plant’s existing infrastructure as possible, explained Ferguson.

Ferguson has also recently announced funding, through ARENA, for three other solar research projects, including one that will adapt a model that assesses the viability of concentrating solar power systems to suit Australian market conditions.