Energy company RATCH-Australia Corporation (RAC) has announced it has partnered with the University of Queensland (UQ) to undertake a feasibility study into converting the coal-fired Collinsville Power Station into a hybrid solar thermal/gas power station.

The $5.6 million feasibility study is jointly funded between RAC and the Federal Government under the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) Emerging Renewables Program.

Federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, announced the funding for the study during a visit the UQ campus, saying it would work towards advancing knowledge of hybrid power plants and accelerate the deployment of solar thermal power generation.

“We are delighted to partner with RATCH-Australia and ARENA in multi-pronged research that we expect to significantly support the transition to renewable energy supplies,” UQ’s Vice-Chancellor Peter Høj said.

Lead researcher Professor Paul Meredith from UQ's Global Change Institute said the research would provide valuable insights into whether existing generation assets could be converted to produce affordable and cleaner power using Australia's abundant solar resource. 
“The project will generate critical information relating to the overall technical, economic and environmental viability of coal fired plant conversion and share this information broadly amongst the community,” Professor Meredith said. 

The 180MW Collinsville power station was built in 1968, and refurbished in 1998. Under the new plans, it will become a 30MW gas / solar thermal plant. 

The feasibility study is expected to be complete in early 2015.