Sundrop Farms | Solar Greenhouse

Sundrop Farms have a solar greenhouse at Port Augusta in South Australia and today we’ll take a look at how it works and how effective the system is. 

Sundrop Farms | Solar Greenhouse

Sundrop Farms Solar Greenhouse
Sundrop Farms Solar Greenhouse (source: Sundrop Facebook)

Sundrop Farms’ pilot facility was opened in Port Augusta in 2010. The solar hydroponic farming concept cost $200m to build and was opened at the end of 2016. It includes a 20 hectare solar greenhouse, a field of 23,000 mirrors, a 127m tall solar tower and a desalination plant. Another great step in the right direction for solar technology

According to an interview with Sundrop Farms Australia Managing Director Steve Marafiote in GQ, it was an easy choice to work with the company once he saw what their value proposition was:

“When I understood what Sundrop was about, I knew I wanted to be part of the business,” Mr. Marafiote said.

“This large-scale sustainable operation is world leading,” he continued. 

“If you look at the agricultural land where the farm is now, it was 120 hectare site that would traditionally sustain six to 10 cows a year. That’s it. Instead, that desert land has been converted to produce 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year – it’s a stark difference.”

The project had $100m of investment from private equity firm KKR and partners with Coles Supermarkets as an official partner. Sundrop has a 10 year contract with them to deliver truss tomatoes – giving them a sizeable 15% share of the Australian market. 

Another massive boon for companies wanting to use a method like this for renewable farming is that there is a surfeit of data points with which to make decisions, includeing monitoring and controlling such factors as water, fuel, temperature and electricity use:

“We know what those operating costs will look like for the next 20 years, and I don’t think there are too many sectors who have the luxury of that position.” said Marafiote.

Click here to view the official website.

 

Read More Solar News:

SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project

American company SolarReserve have signed an MoU with Heliostat SA to manufacture and assemble the components for their solar tower and molten salt storage facility at Port Augusta.

SolarReserve Commence Construction on Aurora Solar Thermal Plant

SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project
SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project (source: solarreserve.com)

SolarReserve announced on Tuesday that they’ll work with Heliostat SA to create 12,800 96 square metre glass mirrors for their Aurora Solar Thermal Plant. 

The solar thermal plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, was announced last August and received developmental approval back in January It is slated to be a $750m project but we haven’t heard any specifics as to updated pricing, and this information is the first news on the project since January of this year. 

According to the CEO of SolarReserve, Kevin Smith, the solar thermal power plant will comprise of approximately 12,000 mirrors, each the size of a billboard (around 100sqm), arranged in a circle over 600 hectares. The mirrors will focus light and heat to the top of a 227m tall tower to generate up to 150MW. This will result in over a million square metres of surface area for the project. 

“Aurora will provide much needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” Mr. Smith said at the time. He elaborated today when discussing the deal with Heliostat SA: 

“We’re excited to have formed a long-term partnership with Heliostat SA and look forward to teaming up with them to bring manufacturing of our world-class heliostats to South Australian workers,” said Mr. Smith.

“SolarReserve is committed to supporting South Australia’s goals which will attract investment, create South Australian jobs and build an exciting and growing new industry.”

According to an article on RenewEconomy the project will create around 200 full time solar jobs for the area, with 650 to be employed during the construction phase. 

This project is a bit slow and new information is thin on the ground, so great to hear that it’s moving ahead. We’ll keep you posted as soon as there’s any new information on the solar thermal plant! 

Read More Solar News:

Solar and Wind Farms in the Sahara Desert

New research in Science magazine shows that installing solar and wind farms in the Sahara Desert could generate massive amounts of electricity and turn parts of the desert green for the first time in over 4,500 years. 

Solar and Wind Farms in the Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert (source: Wikipedia)
The Sahara Desert (source: Wikipedia)

Atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, Eugenia Kalnay, has been working on this theory for over ten years, postulating that the darkness of solar panels won’t reflect the sunlight – helping heat up the surface of the land – which will in turn drive air upwards into the atmosphere (which, in turn, generates rain). 

Dr. Kalnay talked one of her post-doc researchers into creating a computer simulation where 20% of the Sahara is covered with solar panels. They also tried a simulation where the desert was covered in turbines to generate renewable energy from wind. The simulation was successful – with rainfall in the desert increasing by a large enough amount so that vegetation could return to the Sahara.

“It is wonderful!” Dr. Kalnay was quoted as saying in an article by NPR. “We were so happy because it seems like a major solution for some of the problems that we have.”

The Sahara Desert solar farm in the simulation is gigantic – bigger than the entire continental United States. It’d be able to generate 400% of the energy the world currently requires. Would there be a way to install high-capacity transmission lines to transport this power across seas and land? It’s certainly a fantastic concept that seems straight out of a science fiction novel, but technology is increasing at such a pace that ideas like this are, whilst admittedly still in nascent stages, potentially viable. 

Take a look at our articles on printable solar panels/cells to see how, if room wasn’t an issue, how much cheaper large-scale solar could be with lower efficiency panels. 

More great information for solar cell technology. Just a thought experiment at this point but it’s exciting to see what the future could hold for renewable energy in the Sahara Desert! 

 

Read More Solar News:

Pilbara Solar Farm | Alinta Planning Off Grid Solar Farm

Alinta Energy have applied to the Western Australia Department of Water and Resources to clear 160 hectares at the proposed site of its Pilbara solar farm. 

Pilbara Solar Farm | Alinta Energy

Pilbara Solar Farm Alinta
Pilbara Solar Farm by Alinta Energy (source: AlintaEnergy.com.au)

The planning application send through to the department is for permission to clear the 160 hectares of the site and also lays out a planning application for the Pilbara solar farm. 

“The clearing will be required so that Alinta Energy Transmission (Chichester) Pty Ltd (Alinta) can build, own and operate a solar field located adjacent to Fortescue Metals Group’s (FMG’s) Christmas Creek Substation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (the Project),” the application says, according to RenewEconomy, who have quoted ‘solar industry insiders’ who estimate the size of the solar farm to be around 60MW (Alinta haven’t announced the size of the proposed farm yet).  

“The Project will supply FMG’s Christmas Creek mine site with power to support ongoing mining operations” the report continues.

It’s understood that the project will probably use single axis tracking and hopefully usurp the current energy for the Christmas Creek mine – an expensive and ecologically unfriendly 58MW diesel plant. This goes to show how important renewable energy in resources is – especially when you’re dealing with a site far from the grid. Some of these mines use an astronomical amount of power and having as much as possible of that power requirement coming from renewable energy is a fantastic step in the right direction for the resources industry in Australia. 

Last month Alinta made a development application for the 65km energy transmission line which would link the Christmas Creek mine with the Cloudbreak mine – so this gives us a bit of an idea as to what they are hoping to achieve in the future. Don’t be surprised if you hear more about this solar farm and a whopping great battery to go with it! Watch this space. 

 

Read More Solar News:

Darling Downs Solar Update | Jobs, Farms & More

Darling Downs solar is helping the area by providing jobs to locals and kickstarting the economy – with one council already approving $6b worth of wind and solar projects. There’s now a ‘buzz’ around the Darling Downs and renewable energy – let’s take a look at what they have in the pipeline!

Darling Downs Solar 

Darling Downs Solar Farm
Darling Downs Solar Farm (source: Origin Energy)

“We’ve got $1.2 billion of that under construction now, and that’s the exciting thing, this isn’t just about approvals, this is about action to deliver renewable energies to this region,” Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh said in comments to the ABC

“And we know there are another three [solar farms] in the pipeline.”

In Warwick, the 154,000 megawatt-hour generating UQ / Warwick Solar Farm is to be installed on ‘good agricultural land’ has had to wage a battle against NIMBY detractors. Mayor Tracy Dobie defended her decision (she had the deciding vote to allow the farm DA):

“This region is about growth and development and we can sit here and go poor slowly or we can progress our region and the more development we can get in our region the more jobs,” Ms Dobie said.

“The more progress we can make, the better off we are.”

Mayor Dobie continued to discuss the project and what she sees the future of renewable energy in the Darling Downs as looking like:

“This is a turning point in our region to show we are moving forward, that we are looking to the future, and there is nothing more evident than that than renewable energy.

“There’s a buzz about the Darling Downs, this is a great place to be and great time to be here.”

Toowoomba Solar

There’s been an amazing amount of renewable energy movement in Toowoomba – with the billion dollar project at Bulli Creek approved by the Tooowoomba Council. This will be built by Solar Choice over a 10 year staggered period. 

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio spoke about the concerns some residents may have and why he’s happy to continue approving solar farms:

“I guess we have to be a bit cautious of the type of land we put it on, but in saying that, the land is restorable, its not going to be destroyed in any mining effort or anything like that, and in 20, 30, 40 years’ time that land will be back to full production.”

Have a look at the short video below from ABC Landline which was part of an article about using ‘good farmland’ for solar farms. 

Read More Solar News: