Solar thermal power plant announced for Port Augusta 'biggest of its kind in the world'
A 150-megawatt solar thermal power plant has been secured for Port Augusta in South Australia, State Premier Jay Weatherill has announced. Construction of the $650 million plant will start in 2018. Mr Weatherill said the Aurora Solar Energy Project would be ready to go in 2020 and would supply 100 per cent of the State Government's needs. The Government will pay a maximum of $78 per megawatt hour. Mr Weatherill said the solar thermal plant was "the biggest of its kind in the world". "Importantly, this project will deliver more than 700 jobs, with requirements for local workers," he said. In September 2016, the Government launched a tender process to procure 75 per cent of its long-term power supply. It said it wanted to attract a new competitor onto the market and put downward pressure on electricity prices. The Government contract with United States operator Solar Reserve will last for 20 years, and was the "lowest cost option" of shortlisted bids for the project. The maximum Government load is 125MW, meaning the plant will be able to supply other customers. "This, in addition to our state-owned gas plant, and the world's largest lithium ion battery, will help to make our energy grid more secure," Mr Weatherill said.
Project built on $110 million federal loan
Solar Reserve chief executive officer Kevin Smith toured the region in September last year, and said at the time it would need at least $100 million in federal grants or loans to proceed. Earlier this year, the Federal Government confirmed it would grant $110 million in a concessional equity loan to support a solar thermal project at Port Augusta. The loan — first flagged in the lead-up to the federal election — was guaranteed in a deal struck between the Government and independent senator Nick Xenophon to get his support for company tax cuts legislation.Senator Xenophon said the project would transform the energy market in SA and be a "flagship project for the entire nation". "This will make a difference in the South Australia energy market. It will secure the grid and mean more baseload power than intermittent power," he said. He said it would lead to more stable energy in the market, which would lead to lower power prices. Port Augusta City Council Mayor Sam Johnson said the announcement left him with "a little tear in the eye". "It's just an outstanding result and the amount of people that should be thanked, I mean, I could be here for hours thanking them all," he said.
Mirrors to direct sunlight onto tower
Solar thermal uses heliostats, or mirrors, to concentrate sunlight onto a tower that heats molten salt. The heat created is then used to generate steam. Solar Reserve said the plant will be able to provide between eight and 10 hours of storage and had no requirement for gas or oil generated electricity as a backup. It is expected to employ 50 full-time workers on an ongoing basis once it is operational. The company said the power station will operate in a similar fashion to a coal or gas station, meaning many of the jobs would "require the same skill sets". Mr Smith said he looked forward to supporting "federal and state renewable energy targets".
Australia is building the world's largest single-tower solar thermal power plant
South Australia has announced plans to construct the world's largest single-tower solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta. The plant will use technology developed by SolarReserve to store energy in molten salt, giving it the ability to operate 24 hours a day. The government of South Australia has announced plans to construct the world’s largest single-tower solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta. California-based solar tech company SolarReserve will be responsible for both the build and upkeep of the facility. The Aurora Solar Energy Project is based on plans that were developed as part of the Rice Solar Energy Project in California, which stalled as a result of changes to tax credits related to renewable energy. Once built, arrays of heliostats will focus solar energy onto a central tower, which uses molten salt technology to store that energy as heat. These molten salts will provide 1,100 megawatts of energy storage capacity, which equates to eight hours of full load storage. This will allow the facility to generate electricity during the night as well as during the day when sunlight is shining down. Aurora is projected to have an output of 150 megawatts and an ability to generate 495 gigawatt hours of electricity each year. The station will be able to service 90,000 homes and is expected to be able to cater to around five percent of South Australia’s total energy needs. Construction on the $650 million plant will begin next year, with the expectation that Aurora will be producing electricity by 2020.
The sun sets on coal
The Aurora Solar Energy Project won’t be the first major renewable energy project for South Australia. In July, the local government inked a deal with Tesla to install a Powerpack system that will work alongside the Hornsdale Wind Farm. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been very clear about the potential for solar to help the U.S. meet its own energy needs, asserting that the entire nation could be powered by an area measuring 25,600 square kilometers (10,000 square miles) filled with solar panels. Despite these claims and the assertions of other experts, however, U.S. President Donald Trump appears determined to try to revive the coal industry.That hasn’t slowed the adoption of renewable energy in other parts of the world, though. Morocco is currently building the world’s largest traditional solar plant, China’s massive floating solar power plant just went online, and India’s record-holding solar farm can power 150,000 homes. Despite a lack of federal support, individual states and cities within the U.S. are committing to fossil fuel alternatives as well — just this month, Orlando, Florida, became the fortieth city in the country to make a commitment to completely transition to renewables within the next several decades. A primary contributor to this increased adoption is cost. For a long time, a main argument against renewable energy sources has been their high cost when compared to fossil fuels. Now, the solar panels that we’ve become accustomed to seeing atop residential homes have dropped in price significantly, and building a new commercial solar plant is also cheaper than building a plant that’s powered by fossil fuels. Experts are predicting that solar energy will actually be cheaper than coal within the next four years. This increased affordability will no doubt lead to the creation of more projects like the one in Port Augusta, and that will go a long way toward helping the world meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and stem the damage we’ve done to the planet through the use of fossil fuels.