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! 

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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! 

 

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Euroa microgrid: community solar to avoid summer blackouts.

The Euroa Environment Group is leading a $6 million grassroots project which will see 589 kW of new solar panels and up to 400 kW of energy storage installed to create a local Euroa microgrid. This will help avoid the summer blackouts which have plagued the small north-east Victoria city in recent years. 

Euroa Microgrid in combination with Mondo Power and Globird Energy

Euroa Microgrid
Euroa Microgrid Diagram (source: Mondo Power via abc.net.au)Mon

The EEG (Euroa Environment Group) is a local collective formed to help the issue of constant blackouts in the small city. They’ve now got a huge $6m project which will see the EEG partner with Mondo Power, Globird Energy, and 14 local businesses in Euroa who will install the technology, creating a microgrid in the city which means the town will have greater electricity supply reliability, and will also reduce local demand for electricity during peak times.

The Andrews Labor Government has also given a $600,000 solar grant towards the project, which is currently underway.

Shirley Saywell, president of the EEG and local business owner, has discussed the reasons they’ve taken this path:

“We believe that unfortunately we’re not getting good leadership from our Federal politicians, and I believe it’s up to grassroots organisations to drive the renewables charge,” she said.

“There’s no one simple answer to coal, and I think that’s not well understood.”

“Leadership is coming from groups like ours because we understand there is a range of solutions, and there’s not one simple solution. It’s about being clever about what’s available to us.”

 This sort of community solar is also a hot topic of discussion for Australia’s politicians:

Jaclyn Symes, Member for Northern Victoria, discussed how this could impact future decisions for other towns suffering from unreliable power supply:

“Everyone is becoming more educated around the opportunities and the options for reducing reliance on coal,” Ms Symes said.

“I expect that lots of people will be watching with interest about how this works and what savings people will see, and what types of reliability of power improvements can be generated as well.”

We’ll keep you updated with any news from this microgrid and how it helps Euroa traverse the 18/19 summer. 

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Bookaar Solar Farm | Timeline, Opposition & More

The $150m, 200MW Bookaar Solar Farm in Victoria is set to start construction in July next year, if local residents trying to scupper the plans don’t have their way.

Bookaar Solar Farm

Bookaar Solar Farm Location
Bookaar Solar Farm Location (source: Google Maps)

The 200MW Bookaar Solar Farm will feature around 700,000 solar panels, according to the ABC. It is located 10 km to the north of Camperdown, in South West Victoria. It’s being developed by Bookaar Renewables Pty Ltd (a partnership between the landowners and Infinergy Pacific)

According to the official website, there are six main reasons they chose that particular location:

  • Good degree of flat land within the land holding.
  • Good solar resource.
  • Simple grid connection options onsite, with capacity on the lines for the required generation size.
  • Extensive farming land.
  • Good transportation links and site access.
  • Low visual impact – they are hoping to add to existing screening by planting a vegetation screen around the perimeter of the solar farm so neighbour views aren’t as obstructed.

During the construction period it is estimated that the project could provide jobs for up to 150 workers over the course of a year and more.  Following this, 12 full time local jobs will be created over the 30 year operational period of the project. 

The project’s Planning Application and Assessments will be submitted to the Corangamite Shire Council in May 2018.  If approved, construction will begin in late 2019 and be completed by late 2019 or early 2020. 

“The development would be operational for 30 years, after which it would be decommissioned and the site returned to its pre-development status,” the application to council states.

With that said, there is still some solar farm opposition due to its planned size.

Bookaar Solar Farm Opposition

The farm is estimated to be around 6 square kilometres in size, in comparison to Camperdown (where the farm will be built near) which is only 4 square kilometres. As a result, some of the residents are a little uneasy about the impact this farm may have on their investments/lives.

Over 30 people turned up to a meeting a fortnight ago where the Boookaar Community Action Group discussed the ‘immense’ size of the project. 

“The clincher is that it’s 605 hectares, over 1500 acres, just by sheer size it’s an immense problem,” Chair of the group Andrew Duynhoven told the meeting.

“The actual solar farm is the size of Camperdown, plus a quarter.

“It’s massive. It’ll probably be the biggest solar farm application in Australia at the moment.”

Dynhoven elaborated that he is pro-solar but the ‘sheer scale’ of the farm is making them nervous:

“I’m not against solar. I’d love to have solar on the dairy, and in the near future that will occur, but I’m against the sheer scale of this.”

Given the small size of Camperdown and the big solar farm, it is more understandable than most solar farm NIMBY opposition. The residents are also concerned about glint, glare, and the classic: using ‘prime agricultural land’ to build a solar farm. 

A public information meeting will be held at the Camperdown botanic gardens at 1pm on Sunday for anyone interested in following this along. Further discussion about the farm can be found on The Standard‘s website. 

 

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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. 

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