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Giant solar tower to provide all S.A. government electricity needs

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The South Australia government has contracted the US company SolarReserve to deliver all its power needs, which will be supplied by a 150MW solar tower and molten salt storage facility to be built in the former coal town of Port Augusta.

The announcement, following several years of lobbing by the community and an oft-delayed tendering process from the government, will see the first major deployment in Australia of a technology that combines both solar power and storage in the one facility, and the largest such facility in the world.

Amazingly, the contract will deliver power at just $78/MWh – which is around one-half of previous estimates – and significantly cheaper than the gas generation fleet that currently dominates the state’s power needs.

The combination of solar and storage and at such a price is likely to help redefine energy markets in Australia. It will add a new competitor in the local market, and facilitate even more solar PV and wind power in the state because of its storage capacity.

“A shiver has just gone up the coal generation’s industry spine. Solar thermal just won a competitive tender for base-load generation in South Australia,” state treasurer and energy minister Tom Koutsantonis tweeted.

Indeed the implications are not just for “baseload” generators like coal and gas, it may cause battery storage developers, to reconsider their needs, beyond the need for fast response like the Tesla big battery.

What it will do is reinforce South Australia’s global leadership in the transition to renewable energy.

SolarReserve will build the $650 million facility near Port Augusta, employing some 650 people during construction and 50 ongoing jobs. The government says it will put downward pressure on power prices.

Other contenders had expressed an interest in the tender, including a company led by John Hewson, and various gas projects, but it was always clear that SolarReserve had the edge, because it had actually constructed projects of this scale.

Its Crescent Dunes facility has been operating for more than a year, although it was offline for a few months to deal with some technology hiccups. The 110MW facility is providing power to Las Vegas.

It is also building a similar size plant in South Africa, is bidding for a large facility in South America, and has canvassed a 1,000MW facility – a series of six plants – across the south-west of US.

In Australia, SolarReserve has suggested that six plants could be built in S.A. and surrounding states. It is looking at studies in Queensland as well.

The Port Augusta facility, known as Aurora, will produce synchronous renewable energy that can be dispatched into the grid when needed – even when the sun isn’t shining.

This will have the added benefits of improving grid security and stability, and allowing for greater levels of renewables to be integrated into the system. It will be built by 2020.

The facility has effectively won both tenders offered by the government for its services – one that called for a tender to procure 75 per cent of its long-term power supply and another to provide 25 per cent of its electricity load from dispatchable renewable energy providers.

“As a large, dispatchable renewable energy generator, SolarReserve provides a single solution that delivers on the goals of both those initiatives,” the government said in a statement.

The facility will have net capacity of about 135MW, with the ability to increase that output in favourable conditions, such as in the evening. Peak government load is 125MW but lower for most of the day. It has written a 20-year contract for the facility.

The operation of the contract will improve competition by adding more capacity to the system from a new market participant. In particular SolarReserve will have a strong incentive to ensure its capacity is running at peak times, which will put downward pressure on peak prices for all consumers.

The government will pay an expected levelised price of $75/MWh, and no more than $78/MWh.

This price, however, appears predicated on the company winning a $110 million financing from the federal government, which has been promised by Canberra before last year’s election and reinforced in a tax deal with Nick Xenophon earlier this year.

The funding has yet to be allocated, but given it was specifically for a solar thermal facility around this size in this location, it is hard to imagine any other company being in a position to deliver a rival candidate, given no other company has actually build one.

The cheaper equity provided by the government means that the cost of generation will have been cut sufficiently to meet that price negotiated by the state government.

“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,” premier Jay Weatherill said in a statement.

“The Port Augusta story is a stark example of the transition of the South Australian economy, with the closure of a dirty coal fired power station, and now the commissioning of this world leading renewable energy project.

“The Aurora Solar Energy Project will enhance South Australia’s reputation as a leader in clean, cheap renewable energy,” Koutsantonis added.

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said the company’’s energy storage technology is an excellent fit for the South Australian electricity system.

“Aurora will provide much needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” he said.

“SolarReserve looks forward to continuing to work with the South Australian government and stakeholders, including the Port Augusta community where the project is located, to support Federal and State renewable energy targets, stimulate long-term economic development, and create new jobs and businesses.”

SolarReserve’s concentrated solar power technology uses thousands of mirrors (heliostats) to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a central receiver on top of a tower. The process heats molten salt, pumped to the top of the 220 metre tower and flowing through the receiver, to 565°C.

The molten salt provides a stored heat source which is used to generate steam to drive a single turbine that generates electricity. The facility can generate power at full load for up to eight hours after sunset.

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said the company’’s energy storage technology is an excellent fit for the South Australian electricity system.

“Aurora will provide much needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” he said.

  

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  • Shaun

    Great news. Having just moved from the UK to Sydney I can’t help think how outrageous the price the UK govt has guaranteed to EDF for Hinkley C seems in light of this.

    • Michael Murray

      Yes but this is probably only good for a few decades whereas people will be thinking about Hinkley C for hundreds of thousands of years.

      • john

        Hinkley will have inherent storage costs for its waste for hundreds of thousands of years exactly.
        Plus it delivers power at a cost well above even coal so is a dud proposal.

    • wideEyedPupil

      Mind you, this plant would probably be generating at 50MW max capacity in sunny UK and output over a year would likely be <20% of what it will make in SA as this technology requires sustained direct sun to operate. Off shore wind is now cheaper than nuclear in UK of course, and buy the time Hinkley is finished will be much cheaper again.

      • Just_Chris

        If you can get electricity from Hornsdale to ACT you can get it from the north of Spain or the south of France to London – in fact with 2.3 GW installed solar thermal in Spain this is essentially what is happening already.

      • Michael Murray

        In a sensible world we could power Europe from solar towers across the north of Africa. But the geopolitical realities are not going to allow that.

        • Joe

          Yes, this idea was developed through ‘The Desertec Initiative’ some years ago. A consortium of Governments and Industry had high hopes to get this up and running. But funding and geo politics of North Africa have ended the dream…..for the time being?

        • Pixilico

          Geopolitical realities can be changed for the better, too. It’s largely a matter of non-western intervention in the region. And not spawning and using terrorism from there to further covert imperialistic agendas.

          • Alastair Leith

            PLENTY of western intervention in Africa for a few centuries with a sorry history of colonisations and power vacuums left when European nations abandoned their exploit zones in these regions/newly formed illogical nation states.

          • Pixilico

            Not counting the recent ones involving *arab springs*, *color revolutions*, *regime changes* and God knows what else.
            Lybia, for instance (in spite of Gaddafi or because of his iron-fisted hand) was a functional country just a few years ago. See, for instance: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-01-07/we-came-we-saw-he-died-%E2%80%93-revisiting-incredible-disaster-libya

        • Ian

          Not necessarily, Morocco may well try export solar power to Europe through Spain. The political risk to Europe can be mitigated by importing smaller quantities of electricity compared with their overall requirements.

          • Greg Hudson

            If Tasmania can export their hydro to the mainland across a couple of hundred kilometers of water in Bass Strait with a couple of thick cables, I’m sure they can do the short run across the Strait of Gibraltar. Too easy. And if the Spanish don’t want to play ball, there are alternatives.

  • Neville Bott

    Can anyone tell us how long it will take to complete?

    • Michael Murray

      The ABC says building starts in 2018 and operational in 2020.

      • Neville Bott

        Also from the Guardian

        “A proposed solar thermal power plant in South Australia’s mid-north has been contracted to supply all the state government’s power needs.

        Work on the $650m SolarReserve facility will start in 2018, creating 650 construction jobs and 50 ongoing positions.

        The state government said the 150 megawatt plant, to be ready in 2020, would dispatch energy to the grid even when the sun was not shining.”

      • Neville Bott

        and Thanks Michael

      • Sally Noel Triggell

        That’s 3 times faster and about half the price of new coal.

      • Mike Westerman

        We’ll see what actually happens – Ivanpah was meant to take 4y but then took another 3y to iron out the bugs.

    • MrMauricio

      completion 2020!

  • Michael Murray

    Kind of wish Tom had said “A spectre is haunting the fossil fuel industry”.

  • john

    So one CSP is being built how about commissioning a sting of these all across the grid which together with wind and PV during the day can deliver a truly Fossil Fuel free generation of electricity to the national grid?

    • Sally Noel Triggell

      The transition has now begun, the last argument that the FF driven government has, now shown for the lie it always has been.

    • Jo

      exactly, just as BZE has told years ago (with support from Turnbull while he was still fighting climate change)

    • wideEyedPupil

      People are able to refute the technology because it’s operating across an ocean. With it operational on Australian soil by 2020 at a record low price for CSP with storage then Frydenberg and Chief Scientist Finkel et al will have to crawl into an old coal mine or something to hide from public sight if they go on with this coal and gas use out to 2070 bullshit.

  • Chris Fraser

    South Australia leads the country again !

    • Chris Fraser

      Over here in sunny NSW, the silent response to this news from the State Government (and even the SMH) is utterly deafening. The transition is being witnessed by largely quiet achievements.

      • Andrew Thaler

        yep. I’m not sharing a lot of what I know anymore. Nobody gives a shit over here.

      • Alastair Leith

        SMH pretty shit of late.

      • Alan S

        Interesting but expected – they probably reported the Sept power outage with relish. Dr Karl in Sydney was asked about it on ABC Adelaide radio this morning and started off talking about PV before he was corrected by the caller.
        BTW, a pity Joy Baluch didn’t get a mention in the name.

    • trackdaze

      Good to see solar being increasingly added to the grid in SA will help balance out their vast wind generators.

  • Tom

    Wow! $78/MWh!

    If they can build thousands of dual axis tracking machines for that price, with the inherent inefficiencies of boiling water to drive a steam turbine factored in, then I wonder how much axis-tracking PV (either SAT or DAT) is going to fall in the near future?

    I’d love to see a breakdown of costs for the project – how much does the mirrors & associated DAT machinery cost; how much does the tower cost; how much does the storage tanks cost; and how much does the steam generator cost? And how much is being factored in for maintenance?

    • Jo

      These are some anwers in 2012 from BZE. The technology and cost have certianly improved since then, but the concepts should still be the same. http://bze.org.au/repowering-port-augusta/

    • Mike Westerman

      Tom – run the numbers backwards assuming $650M and $110M concessional loan and you will confirm that $78 is not a bundled price ie it excludes LGCs or any rights to future CET income, and probably doesn’t include FCAS or sale of excess reserve not taken up by the government. The most recent CSP info I have suggested $90 bundled is possible in Chile where the annual solar insolation, and more particularly, cloud free days, is better than Pt Augusta.

    • Matthew Wright

      Actually it will most likely be built hybridised with PV at the same site. So that the plants main purpose is filling the storage. The economics shifted 3 or so years ago to not running solar thermal plants on-sun and having them act as a bundled storage unit .- storage _+ solar charging which then firms up an adjacent PV farm and operates out of sun hours.

      • Tom

        Really interesting – I’ve been wondering about that for a while.

        That would be great for the solar farm when there are transmission constraints. If you could only transmit, say, 200MW, then you could build a 400MW solar farm but only send half of it to the grid with the other half being sent to heat up the salt (or whatever other heat sink you’re using). Then when it’s not sunny you could keep sending 200MW to the grid.

        • Mike Westerman

          Kidston will operate the same way, with solar supplying the pumps during the day, with generation in the morning if water available but most revenue being during the evening peak.

  • Neville Bott

    “to supply all the state government’s power needs”

    This statement was repeated in the Guardian’s report, does anyone have an English translation?

    • Michael Murray

      The State Government uses a certain amount of power. This new solar tower will generate at least that much.

      • Hettie

        That would include all state schools as well as State Gov’t departments, courts, prisons, housing departments, some social services like child and family welfare, railways – lots of things the State Gov’ts do that use electricity.

      • Neville Bott

        The statement still doesn’t make much sense. Unless I’m wrong I’m guessing this power will be for Port Augusta.

        Even if it does supply the gov needs so what, the relevant statistic is how much this reduces the states C02 emissions.

        In the long term though with luck this will be completed by 2020, in another few years if all goes well this will prove that solar thermal can fill the gaps as they are left by retiring coal plants.

    • Tom

      My assumption (which might be wrong) is that the plant will supply 1) MWh of energy, 2) dispatchability, and 3) “spinning momentum” – FCAS.

      With this generator spinning it could count as at least one of the four gas generators in the “4-generator if wind above 1200MW” rule.

      • Alastair Leith

        Hopefully this rule goes the way of the Dodo.

        • Just_Chris

          I don’t think the rule is a problem. If the Tesla battery counts as 1 generator, the CSP plant the second and the salt water pumped storage as the 3rd we are only one other generator away from a stable, green SA grid.

          • Alastair Leith

            Wind can provide inertia primary frequency response if built with the appropriate technology. All new wind going into SA will now (belatedly) be required to have this technology. Perhaps they need a capacity payment in SA (or the entire NEM) calculated on each generators supply on a list of critical supply events in the previous few years as operating on the SWIS grid (WA)?

          • Mike Westerman

            Alastair – I think AEMO has made out a strong case as to why inertia beyond that provided by wind is needed tho’ the contributions of synthetic inertia should not be ignored. See https://www.aemo.com.au/-/media/Files/Electricity/NEM/Security_and_Reliability/Reports/2016-FPSS-Roadshow-presentation-3.pdf

          • Alastair Leith

            Yes, I wouldn’t want to be seen to be ignoring what chemical batteries (and CST!) can do for inertia and primary and secondary response measures. I think wind and batteries can do it for less than gas and coal by a long shot if the service is valued and therefore gets a pay day.

          • Alastair Leith

            Thanks for the link Mike. Very technical material, I wish Jenny Riesz had her presentation explaining the slides online.

          • Mike Westerman

            I think the long and short of it is that detection time means that any synthetic response can’t be triggered until you are sure of what is happening, which for a low inertia grid will be too late to prevent separation of a network like SA from Vic. A contributing factor no doubt is the loss of manufacturing and all those induction motors, being replaced by transformerless switched power supplies. The self regulation coefficient of the network is declining even as the contribution from generators is also declining. Mind you, fairly easily fixed by disconnecting the compressors on GTs and running them as synchronous condensers. But ultimately the SA government needs to call specifically for development of pumped hydros – it doesn’t need to provide too much incentive: just enough to convince the bankers given that the Feds are doing everything to undermine investor confidence.

          • Alastair Leith

            Thanks Mike. Is the inertia provided by Gen 4 wind turbines when provided with the right technology for FCAS kinetic or “synthetic”? I know the rotor slows when they provide the FFR to lift frequency and it takes time to get them back up to speed, they can also run with “headroom” (i.e below maximum speed for any given wind speed), enough to turn up the power output quickly and counter the loss of frequency. But given the variable-speed generator is not synchronous and the power is transformed/controlled to be “synchronous” with the grid then maybe it isn’t direct kinetic inertia that operates under the laws of physics, not decisions making electronics?

          • Mike Westerman

            Both – the rotor will slow but also generator load angle will change. I found a paper on it but there’s probably good recent papers out there. I saw on AEMO site that they are now trialling it at Hornsdale 2 – Type 4 machines: see https://arena.gov.au/news/arena-and-aemo-looking-to-evolve-traditional-electricity-market/

          • Alastair Leith

            Here’s some old links I have bookmarked
            http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/renewables/can-synthetic-inertia-stabilize-power-grids
            http://magazine.ieee-pes.org/files/2013/10/2013nov-miller.pdf

            There’s a bunch of papers free on the net about FFR/FCAS studies and Miller links to some IIRC.

  • juxx0r

    So power need never rise above $78/MWh with enough of these. Should build 20 of them and enough PV for daytime.

    • phred01

      Heat can be stored as molten salt

  • Brunel

    I thought solar panels produce electricity at a lower price.

    What will the price of electricity be from this at 6 AM?

    • Tom

      They are cheaper, but they’re not dispatchable.

      When they can build a PV farm coupled with a battery (or pumped hydro, or thermal storage, or anything else) with 6 hours of storage for less than $78/MWh then we’ll be comparing apples with apples.

      Looking at the wholesale gas prices right now – it’s almost $8/GJ in Vic. It takes about 6.5GJ to produce 1MWh with a combined cycle gas generator ($52/MWh), and that’s before maintenance costs, and CCGTs aren’t even really all that dispatchable. An OCGT (which is much more dispatchable than CCGT) takes about 10GJ of gas to produce 1MWh – $80 of feedstock alone.

      The technology isn’t all that exciting, but the price is.

      • Brunel

        Solar panels can melt salt too – just put “toasters” around the boiler.

        Which goes back to the question, what will be the price of electrons at 7 AM when the salt is coldest.

        I doubt the price of electrons will be A$78/MWh at 7 AM.

        • wideEyedPupil

          You don’t store energy to sell into the lowest price in the market. Generally wind will be providing for that time.

        • wideEyedPupil

          Molten salt stored in a giant insulated cylinder (quite like a thermos in concept) only loses 1º C a day (from a 565º C start point that’s a rounding error). But you don’t want to store it for too long, the idea with storage is to cycle it as many times a year as possible to generate income on the capital investment.

        • Just_Chris

          In solar thermal plants the salt is the thermal transfer fluid hence storage is effectively built into the system. You can’t build csp of this type without the storage. I assume if you build a plant with 30 min storage it would freeze every time a cloud went over.

          • Alastair Leith

            Yes, “with no storage” is in fact that’s just what BrightSource built at Ivanpah (a three tower CSP at 392 MW CSP plant), and they use gas burners to melt the salt to ~288º C operational “cold” temperature every morning.

        • Michael Staindl

          Brunell the article says (a) the power is contracted for a Max of $78/MWhr (expected $75) for 20 years, and (b) the plant will have storage for 8 hours at full output – so say 16 hours at half output. So the answer to your electrons at 7AM question is A$78/MWhr – Max! 🙂

  • DugS

    That single bright tower is going to be analogous to an extended middle finger to the conservative politicians and their fossil fuel friends who tried and failed to derail our future. Well done to all involved and role on the energy revolution.

  • Ben Jamin’

    SA is getting into CSP just as the US are abandoning the technology. Brave move.

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601083/ivanpahs-problems-could-signal-the-end-of-concentrated-solar-in-the-us/

    • wideEyedPupil

      Silly article that leads with the bird death furphy and ends with dire predictions, in spite of new projects being commissioned in South Africa and elsewhere. Dispatchable renewable energy only becomes a necessity when penetrations of wind and solarPV go over ~50% maybe 70% of supply, that’s one reason why a lot of it isn’t getting built yet, in sunny countries REs tend to be well below that level so far.

      Perhaps SolarReserve realised they need to work on cost and are loss leading on this to get a beachhead in the Australian market before single axis utility scale PV get’s too established.

      • Matthew Wright

        WE need to concurrently get storage technologies down the cost curve so when we do reach that 50-70% point (could even be higher ie 75-90% with significant curtailment or built in curtailment of wind (sqm swept area to generator kW capacity) So this is the right place to be investing along with the Powerwall and other technologies to get them down the cost curve. The $78/MWh is probably after a subsidy or two ie $110-120Million from the Fed Govt.

        • Alastair Leith

          The CEFC $110m is a (worthwhile++) subsidy but it’s not a grant, its a loan with interest, but attracts private equity because it’s govt backed.

          Agree this govt investment in CSP is overdue in Australia and extremely gratifying to see come to fruition, Congrats to you, Mark, Hannah and everyone at BZE who planted the CST seeds in Port Augusta all those years ago (2010 for those who came in late)!

    • David Mitchell

      Not comparing apples with apples. Ivanpah uses water as heat transfer fluid, not molten salt.

    • Coley

      Report could be condensed into two words “cheap gas”

  • solarguy

    Marvellous, completely over joyed. I’ve been waiting for this for years. Sometimes dreams do come true!

  • trackdaze

    Meanwhile we have the coal industry spending more on slick (grimey) advertisements about clean(not) coal.

    Clean energy advertises itself.

    • Do you watch advertisements? Why? Block them always.

      • trackdaze

        Not really. Free to air though

  • Joe

    Big Mal eat your heart out. Premier Jay is ‘doing’ Strrrrrrong Leadership….not just talking it! Premier Jay is the country’s True Leader. Just loved the SA Liberal Opposition response to the project…all whingeing, complaints…nothing positive to say. Must have got their speaking lines from Joshie F, The Abbott & the rest of the FF Boosters Club.

    • Let conservatives push themselves further to the fringe with their nonsense. Push them harder, while they do it, for the sake of your country.

  • Divergent

    Is it going to supply the same power output in winter as in summer given winter irradiance levels are half that of summer?

    • Mike Westerman

      No, and very little output when it is cloudy. CSP relies on direct sunlight, unlike PV that continues to provide output even in overcast conditions.

      • Divergent

        A bit like wind then, the output of which is proportional to half the cube of the velocity hence large fluctuations in output.

  • Ren Stimpy

    Cool bananas.

    Now that they’ll have established supply chains for large grid batteries and CST, next on the list should be a pumped hydro plant and a biomass plant to establish a foothold for those technologies. The greater the variety of clean dispatchables the better.

    Now for the all important question, what color will CST be on the Live Generation widget?

    • My_Oath

      It should just be marked as “Large Solar” shouldn’t it?

      • Ren Stimpy

        Not necessarily. It would be good to see that differentiation between rooftop PV, solar farm PV (large solar) and solar CST.

    • Ian

      I would get rid of coal and make CST black!

  • Dennis Abbott..

    Congratulations, well done Re-power Pt Augusta team, BZE, CORENA, Solar Reserve, the SA Government and all the other politicians and campaigners involved.

    • Ron Horgan

      Matthew Wright and the BZE gang take a bow. You were spot on all those
      years ago and the small minded critics utterly wrong.

  • Ian

    The puzzle with this sort of plant is the energy output. For a good day of solar, PV might produce 5 or 6 KWH per KW installed, wind on average through the year might have a capacity factor of 40%. What is this plant’s expected capacity factor? On a good sunny day under optimal conditions how many MWH per day can we expect per MW of installed capacity? Imagine this plant running at 150 MW for a baseload of 24 hrs, the capacity factor would be 100% and the energy output 150x 24= 3600MWH for this ideal day. This is clearly not intended. Maybe 135MW for 10hrs that would be 1350MWH/day and a capacity factor of 38%.

    This sort of plant would have three main elements 1. The collecting system – mirrors 2. The salt storage 3. The turbine-generator set . The collecting system and storage can be very large, whilst the genset can be relatively small. ie for a genset rated at 150MW you could have any amount of storage, enough for 2 hrs, 6hrs, a day or more, the mirrors would obviously need to charge this storage and be sized appropriately. Capacity factor is thus a measure of the storage/mirrors to genset ratios. Can anyone answer this frustrating question?

    • Mark Diesendorf

      This is great news, but unfortunately SA energy minister Tom Koutsantonis has confused people by repeating the common misunderstanding that this is base-load (24/7) power. It will be operated more like a peak-load power station and so its capacity factor will be much lower than that of a typical conventional base-load power station. With its molten salt storage, it will be generally dispatchable for periods of several hours when demand is high and wind and solar PV generation are low. These are the times when the economic value of CST will be highest. If could not fulfil that role if operated like a base-load power station.

      Wind and solar PV will supply most of the base-load demand in SA, with their variations smoothed by CST, batteries, open-cycle gas turbines (temporarily) and in future (I hope) off-river pumped hydro and contracted demand repsonse.

      • Matthew Wright

        My understanding is that they will hybridise the plant with solar photovoltaic so on-sun production will be mostly from PV with firming from the solar thermal plant molten solar reservoir and that the mirror filed will be dedicated to recharging the battery. It comes in at about half the price of the Tesla PW2. My hope is that they will add electric heaters as well so optionally the output of wind that’s otherwise
        being curtailed in SA can also be dumped as heat in the molten salt tank.

        • Andrew Thaler

          they will also likely have a gas ‘boost’ burner to extend the run-time and bridge crappy weather.

          • Mike Westerman

            No need to overcapitalise if your contract doesn’t require it. 495GW is 9h/day at 150MW

          • Alastair Leith

            There’s gas generation already on the grid to do that, no need.

            They’ll probably have gas on site to pre-heat the cold tank salt to molten temperatures (~288º C) when required. The BrightSource Ivanpah CST plant has three towers but no storage and they burn gas in the mornings to get the salts up to operation “cold” temperature.

          • Matthew Wright

            I don’t believe they’re planning on a gas burner to go with it apart from a connection for emergencies which will just be about keeping the molten salt in a molten state and will rely on tanker deliveries in the unlikely event of an outright failure

        • Alastair Leith

          If not they can also by green or brown energy from the grid to meet obligations for the midday peaking govt demand loads. AEMO predicts summer minimum demand of zero on 90% of days “after PV” offsets existing demand by 2026/27.

      • Alastair Leith

        Jay Weatherill and the CEO of SolarReserve made it very clear that this is how it would operate and generated income at the presser.

    • Mike Westerman

      Ian the heliostat field is sized for the energy stored, allowing for the Carnot limits for the temperature difference utilised (ie supercritical multistage with reheat ST) of maybe 35% and the relatively high parasitic loads. So I think I read somewhere that the 150MW system actually delivers about 125MW which is probably about right. So the heliostat field is sized to collect 150MWx8h/.35=3,438MWht with field efficiency of probably around 95% averaged across the solar day. Have a look at this report https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/57625.pdf for some details.

      • Ian

        Thank you, the article says 135MW net output, and as you suggest, for 9 hours, this would give a daily capacity of 1200MWH. Assuming this is fully dispatchable, this facility could be viewed as a ‘battery’ or as a peaker gas plant etc.
        The installation cost for this ‘battery’ is then $500/KWH – this compares favourably with other types of ‘storage ‘ . The operating costs would probably be similar to the cost of electricity to recharge a lithium type battery or a pumped hydro scheme etc. The article did say a levelised cost of $78/MWH, so good on them , I hope it works out.

        • Mike Westerman

          Operating costs likely to be about $30/MWh, so not exactly a write home to mum project, but I’m glad that it sends a shhhhsh to deniers rabbiting on about “intermittent” RE. I hope tho’ that it doesn’t make the SA government complacent about the need for behind the meter storage and pumped hydro.

        • Alastair Leith

          The article did say a levelised cost of $78/MWH, so good on them , I hope it works out.

    • Alastair Leith

      The C.F. for Crescent Dunes at Tonopah near Las Vegas is listed on wikipedia as 16.1% actual / 51.9% planned(!)

      The C.F. for BrightSource Ivanpah plant in California is listed on wikipedia as
      20.5% (2016 actual) / 27.4% (Planned).

      Crescent Dunes
      Nameplate capacity 110 (net) MW
      Capacity factor 16.1% (actual) / 51.9% (planned)
      Storage capacity 10 hours
      Planned output 500 GW·h

      Ivanpah
      Units operational 3
      Make and model Siemens SST-900
      Nameplate capacity Unit 1: 126 MW
      Units 2 and 3: 133 MW each.
      Planned: 392 MW gross, 377 MW net
      Capacity factor 20.5% (2016 actual) / 27.4% (Planned)
      Planned output 940 GW·h

      • Ian

        Mm, not very good, why did those plants fall so far short of their expected capacity factors? Perhaps the designed capacity factor is for an ideal sunny day and the actual capacity factor is that averaged over a typical year with variable levels of insolation .

        • Mike Westerman

          It has improved a lot since

  • Greg Hudson

    I’m surprised SA has not investigated the geothermal option. I believe there has already been a trial bore hole (in the SA desert) some 5Km deep returning scalding hot water to a steam turbine on the surface.
    I wonder what happened there ?

    • Mike Westerman

      One word: cost

    • Divergent

      Hmm, solar wind faction? 5 x recs PV multiplier killed off competitors. Geothermal THE most dispatchable renewable energy available. Cost would have come down had it had 60c feed in tarrif.

    • Alastair Leith

      They broke a drill bit and it took them 1 or 2 years to get a replacement to continue the drilling. Cost is the issue, and the fact that the resource can up and move from under their multi-million dollar rig and shafts.

    • Mike Shackleton

      The problem is thermal conductivity of the rock mass. You pump water down there to heat it up in the sort of quantities required for Geothermal power and the rock mass surrounding the bore cools down very quickly. In New Zealand the heat source is a lot shallower and is exchanging with superheated groundwater. Even then there are issues.

      • Mike Westerman

        Also conventional geothermal as in NZ, PNG and Indonesia is because magma is close to the surface whereas Australia’s hot rocks are hot because of low level radiation and the insulation of kilometers of overlying sediment.

  • Andrew Thaler

    I’m very relieved they avoided SolarStor. dodged a bullet there!

  • ZAIMatte

    This plant costs >10 million dollars per MW, fossil fuels are safe for now…this is clearly not the way to replace fossil fuels but cement the dependence on them. Birds will suffer even worse from this than from windfarms…

    Also looking at similar projects around the world, this plant will not be a 100% RE venture but fossil gas will prop up the shortfalls in solar productions.

    • Mike Westerman

      Mate just read the article instead of picking stuff out of your navel. $650M/150MW= $4.3M/MW. I think we did multiplication and division in Yr3.

      And your stats seem as bad as your maths…

      • ZAIMatte

        Instead of blindly swallowing propaganda, how about using some independent thought processes and apply some critical thinking?

        The plant is stated to produce 500 GWh/annum (495 GWh actually, which is a strange number in itself), as with all stochastic electricity production, capacity is a useless metric with out capacity factor or annual volume.

        500 GWh / 8760h = ~60 MW average capacity (56,5 MW actually).
        650 million / 60MW = 10,83 million/MW (I was being rather kind in my previous post as 11,5 million/MW is closer to the real value)

        Yr3 maths is just a tool. It requires a bit more to apply the correct tool to a problem/question AND to understand the issue at hand in order to apply Yr3 tools CORRECTLY. I can’t fault your maths, which is refreshing for a change, your reasoning is seriously flawed however as you need to learn a bit more about energy and power, which I do believe is Yr7 or Yr8 Physics…
        [Aurora Solar Energy Project]

        Also; EIA says Solar CSP costs $242/MWh and Solar PV $85/MWh. These guys have $78/MWh. Something smells and I do believe it is fossil gas (additives)…

        • Mike Westerman

          Well of course, an intelligent reader if he meant $/MW firm would have said so. But then that same intelligent reader would also realise that to quote firm power is only relevant if the scheme is intended to provide power on a continuous basis, if which case quoting availability becomes important. So you’ve missed the boat in terms of anything useful to add.

          EIA is out by a factor of two on both counts, since they update their figures slowly. Current recent bids unsubsidised for both CSP and PV are USD94.5/MWh and USD29.5 respectively. There will be no gas to the SR plant – the will sell into the evening peak market as well as providing reserve overnight. Gas would actually cost them way more than their selling price.

          • ZAIMatte

            Let me refresh my first statement;
            “This plant costs >10 million dollars per MW, fossil fuels are safe for now…this is clearly not the way to replace fossil fuels but cement the dependence on them.”

            If you are not providing electricity on a continual basis you will not replace fossil fuels but rather extend the dependency on them. Simple fact.

            “Current recent bids unsubsidised for both CSP and PV are USD94.5/MWh and USD29.5 respectively.”
            These are not unsubsidised bids, if you truly believe that to be the case I can’t help you…

            “Gas would actually cost them way more than their selling price.”
            Depends on the spotmarket and the purchasing cost of gas is <$78/MWh (~$30-50/MWhe @ 30% thermal efficiency)…
            I am starting to believe you have a very tenuous grasp on reality.

          • Mike Westerman

            There is nothing factual about “If you are not providing electricity on a continual basis you will not replace fossil fuels but rather extend the dependency on them.” Few of my uses of electricity are continuous or even uninterruptible, and those that are I use a battery to cover for interruptions eg phone, laptop, internet modem. My biggest use of electricity, hot water, is entirely interruptible, as is charging an EV. So a completely bogus “alternative fact”.

            My rooftop PV is very much displacing my dependence on fossil fuels, both in the house and soon for transport (when the Tesla 3 arrives). As more load is completely interruptible, the value of “continuous” supply will decline, and will have to be paid for directly by those needing it.

            The bids I quoted were unsubsidised – meaning that that is the only revenue stream being received by the suppliers. I’m not sure how your twisted mind conjures up some other spooky income.

            Your $30-50/MWh is the SRMC – to which would need to be added amortisation of gate station and spur line, reserve of gas main capacity (given intermittent nature of demand), amortisation of separation gas boiler and it’s maintenance. None of which makes sense for a generator that is only contracting for peak period supply.

            In my reality, I pay different amounts for different services, some of which are continuous, so discrete. I don’t expect the Uber to always be at my door, so I pay for the few times I need him. I’m not sure what happens in your world.

          • ZAIMatte

            “Few of my uses of electricity are continuous or even uninterruptible, and those that are I use a battery to cover for interruptions eg phone, laptop, internet modem.”
            Good for you, unfortunately a modern society and industry does not use electricity/energy in that way, so your personal consumption pattern is not representable or even relevant for the discussion. Continuous and reliable delivery of cheap energy is a requirement for modern society, this is partly why Australia still has the dirtiest grid in the G20 community…or why don’t you shut those coal and diesel plants down tomorrow?

            “The bids I quoted were unsubsidised – meaning that that is the only revenue stream being received by the suppliers.”
            Nope, if they are really cowboys (in a financial sense) they are hedging on a significant price hike a few years after commissioning of their facility. Now I am not an economist but engineer/scientist but if you are committing yourself to bankruptcy there is something missing in the information you are providing to your investors or massive subsidies hidden in the small print (much like the solar project in Abu Dhabi as an example).

            “Your $30-50/MWh is the SRMC – to which would need to be added amortisation of gate station and spur line, reserve of gas main capacity (given intermittent nature of demand), amortisation of separation gas boiler and it’s maintenance. None of which makes sense for a generator that is only contracting for peak period supply.”
            Well, the infrastructure and boiler is part of the design of the plant, used in order to heat up the plant after maintenance and other outages so that cost would be included in the OEM already. All you have to pay for is the gas and delivery of it. A buffer tank is fairly cheap to build and maintain compared to the facility’s overall OEM costs anyway. If you have a choice of bankruptcy or burning some extra gas to produce product to sell I believe the answer is pretty clear, just look at the CSP (gas-)plants in the US and Spain.

          • Mike Westerman

            Our real “essential services” don’t rely on grid reliability, they provide their own. Those that do, do so because that reliability is paid for by someone else – namely households, thru the massive taxes that are called “network charges”. It is a model that has fed on itself, a bit like fixed line telephony, until consumers realised they had choice.

            I know the numbers used by bidders in the ME: I have been privy to a bid that lost by 0.02c so don’t need your spooky conspiracies to convince me. Likewise I did the numbers for Solar Reserve when they first looked at a plant in NW WA. Obviously you chose to believe your own made up numbers.

            Likewise, the cheapest option for SR for heating the salt if needed after a shutdown is an electric coil. No need for a separate gas boiler (the salt to steam heat exchanger can’t be used in that fashion). So again you just make stuff up to suit your argument. The contract in SA is quite clear – it is not a continuous energy supply, but a normal peaker, able to hedge against high prices in the spot market.

            And you wonder why a see your faux dignity for what it is….

          • ZAIMatte

            “Likewise, the cheapest option for SR for heating the salt if needed after a shutdown is an electric coil.”
            Electricity is way more expensive than gas so that is not correct.

            “The contract in SA is quite clear – it is not a continuous energy supply, but a normal peaker, able to hedge against high prices in the spot market.”

            Thank you again for emphasizing my point. Marginal power production will not replace fossil fuels…fossil fuels are quite safe from this bird roaster.

          • Mike Westerman

            Oh so how many of these things have you engineered? Or is that more stuff you just made up. An electric coil for the very few times you need an external heat source to melt the salt is exactly how it is done.

            And just as peak hydro, open cycle GTs and all other peaking plant doesn’t run continuously, nor is this designed to. Just as the electric motor in your coffee grinder is not continously rated, nor is this.

            In your inflexible world where you only have the muscle to carry a hammer, everything is a nail. In the real world, we are capable of building complex systems from many bits with different functions, each fit for purpose. I’m glad you are not engineering a car for me, it might only have right hand side doors.

  • Richie

    While flying up to Casper Wyoming for the eclipse the other day, I think I saw the three towers of Ivanpah out the window. So, so beautiful. I cannot wait for SA to go one better. Jay and Tom, you are my heroes.