Solar thermal power plant for South Australia

Big news out of South Australia today as Port Augusta is going to get a $650m solar thermal power plant to supply all the power needs for the State Government. It is slated to commence construction in 2018 and will generate 150MW of power. This is a major boon for South Australian solar and the industry as a whole.

Port Augusta Solar thermal power plant.

The plant, which is going to be named ‘Aurora’, will be built by SolarReserve over a three year period. According to AdelaideNow, the standard output under regular conditions will be around 135MW – it will be viable to raise this in peak periods if there are favourable conditions.

SolarReserve have agreed to pay to construct the plant and the State Government have agreed to buy its power over a 20-year contract. RenewEconomy have reported that the government will pay a levelised price of ~$75/MWh, and ‘no more’ than $78/MWh. The project will be created thanks to a $110 million ‘concessional equity loan’ from the Federal Government to SolarReserve, and will be able to store between eight and 10 hours of energy to facilitate power supply even when the sun’s not shining.

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. Each of the 12,000 mirrors will focus light and heat to the top of a 227m tall tower to generate up to 150MW. “Aurora will provide much needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” he said.

The ‘concentrated solar power technology’ will use the 12,000 mirrors (also known as heliostats) to send heat/light to a receiver at the top of the tower where moten salt stored there is heated to 565 degrees Celsius, generating steam to drive a single turbine. Since the project will include storage as well, it should result in a substantial reduction in wholesale price volatility, according to Smith.

The design is based on the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility at the Mojave Desert in Nevada, which has a gross capacity of 392MW and has a gigantic 170,000 mirrors (enough to power 140,000 Californian homes).

SolarReserve, based in Santa Monica, have already constructed a solar thermal power plant, with the 110MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project a success (although it was taken offline for ~8 months over 2016/17 due to a molten salt tank).

“We are supporting this nation-leading renewable energy project because it will deliver more competition into our energy market and put downward pressure on power prices for households and businesses,” Jay Weatherill, the premier of South Australia said.

Watch this space to learn more about the project!

Crescent Dunes Solar Thermal Power Plant
Crescent Dunes Solar Thermal Power Plant (source: wikipedia.org)

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