Economy

Port Augusta solar thermal plant development approved

Port Augusta solar thermal plant development approved

In South Australia, California-based SolarReserve is building what will be the world's largest thermal solar plant.

"South Australia has the highest penetration of renewables in the world", said Sara Bell, founder of energy company Tempus Energy, who has worked extensively in Australia.

In the meantime, photovoltaic (PV) panels have leaped ahead, leading many to question whether solar thermal energy will ever have its day in the Sun.

The South Australia solar thermal plant will feature a single tower that stands at the center of a vast field of solar mirrors, also known as heliostats. This is used to generate steam to turn a turbine and generate electricity. According to the United States firm, from storage alone, the Aurora plant will be able to meet the demand of about 35% of the South Australian homes for an eight-hour period.

"South Australia is providing the rest of the country a glimpse of a renewable energy future". Last month, the state switched on a 100-megawatt battery storage farm that Tesla CEO Elon Musk famously built in less than 100 days to help solve the state's energy woes. To address the fluctuations caused by so much wind and solar, it famously had Tesla install the world's biggest battery late previous year, which has already saved the Australian grid from malfunctioning several times thanks to its millisecond response to frequency instability.

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SolarReserve-the same company that operates the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant in Nevada, the world's first utility-scale solar thermal power plant-boasts that Aurora's massive 1,100 megawatt-hours of storage will provide eight hours of full load power after dark. It is claimed that the project will be capable of powering South Australia far in excess of State Government buildings, the equivalent to more than 230,000 homes for 8 hours, or almost 35% of all of the households in South Australia.

The South Australian government announced in August that the project had won a competitive tender to supply 100 per cent of the government's energy needs from 2020.

The 150MW solar thermal power plant, 30 km north of Port Augusta, will be the biggest of its kind in the world and create about 650 local jobs during construction and 50 ongoing positions.

The Clean Energy Council executive general manager Natalie Collard said: "The price that the government will pay for power is remarkably low, considering solar thermal is a very young technology in Australia".

"This world- leading project will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals, schools and other major government buildings", he said. "And it has already met its target of 50 per cent renewable energy nearly a decade early", said Natalie Collard, Clean Energy Council executive general manager, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.


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