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SolarReserve granted approval for 150MW solar thermal project

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The Lead

SolarReserve’s 150MW solar thermal power plant has been granted development approval by the South Australian Government, paving the way for construction to begin this year.

The Aurora Solar Energy Project located in Port Augusta, about 300km north of the South Australian capital Adelaide, will incorporate eight hours of storage or 1100 megawatts-hours, allowing it to operate like a conventional coal or gas power station.

The AU$650 million plant – the biggest of its kind in the world – will have a capacity of about 135MW under normal operating conditions with the ability to increase that output in favourable conditions.

The plant will be situated about 150km northwest of Jamestown, where Elon Musk has installed the world’s largest Lithium-ion battery at Hornsdale Wind Farm.

Aurora will deliver 495 gigawatt-hours of power annually – providing fully dispatchable baseload electricity to the network.

It will supply 100 per cent of the South Australian Government’s electricity load from 2020, after it won a competitive tender process.

The project will also supply the broader market, enhancing competition and putting downward pressure on power prices.

In September 2016 the South Australian Government launched a tender process to procure 75 per cent of its long-term power supply in order to attract a new competitor into the electricity market, increasing competition and putting downward pressure on power prices.

The offer from SolarReserve was the lowest-cost option of the shortlisted bids with the government paying no more than AU$78/MWh.

The project is a big win for the Port Augusta community, which is still recovering from the 2016 closure of a major coal-fired power station in the town.

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said the development approval was an important milestone for the Aurora Solar Energy Plant.

“The remarkable story of the transition of Port Augusta from coal to renewable energy – which won a competitive tender against fossil fuel – is also a preview of the future of power generation around the world,” he said.

The project will use 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 tower and flowing through the receiver, to 565 degrees Celsius.

The molten salt provides a stored heat source that 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.

South Australia’s Acting Energy Minister Chris Picton said the approval would trigger major investment, create hundreds of jobs and put downward pressure on prices.

“This world- leading project will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals, schools and other major government buildings,” he said.

“South Australia is fast becoming a global centre for the development of renewable energy with storage, with a range of other projects set to come online over the next few years.”

Source: The Lead. Reproduced with permission.  

  • Ian

    There are at least 4 applications for high temperature thermal engineering in South Australia. CST with storage, like this planned plant is one. The steel industry is a second, the aluminium refining industry is a third and molten silicon storage is a fourth. Desalination, absorption refrigeration would be other technologies worth perusing in this area. Australia is good at tertiary education, it’s one of our biggest exports. These sorts of high temperature thermal plants would be ideal to form the basis of a centre of excellence for SA

    • Catprog

      Sundrop farms I think is doing CST desalination.

  • Jonathan Prendergast

    I assume the project still relies on the federal government loan to proceed?

    • mick

      i think in september frauderturd got his mug in the news sating it wasnt a done deal, with xenophon out of the way the lnp may see an opportunity to back slide on the agreement

  • ben

    Great news

  • George AD

    Back of the envelope calculations suggest about 40% capacity factor. That’s not bad.

    Of course if you weight that production to demand, it’s considerably better.

  • Just_Chris

    I’ll be really interested to see what this plant does to electricity prices when it comes online. 130 MW isn’t enough to power the state but at around 10% of the states demand it is enough to push the price up or down. What fascinates me is that it is very different to all of the other power sources in the market. It isn’t like a coal plant that needs to run at a constant “base load” power output. It’s not like a gas turbine that can be turned off for a couple of days and then come back on and run at variable output for a few days before turning off again if the price of power dictates it. It is also not like wind or solar that can only run when it is windy or sunny. It is also much bigger than the battery in terms of energy but about the same for power.

    Pretty much from where I am sitting it will have to run every day as solar in has to equal power out but there isn’t any reason to run the storage at any particular state of charge. You could cycle it every day or you could let the heat build up over a few days and then discharge more heavily on a single day or just use the solar directly as it comes in not letting it build up heat at all.

    from 2020 SA is going to have wind, solar, battery, solar thermal + storage and gas in its grid. It will be really interesting to see what the average price is and what the deviation around the average is.

    • George AD

      I would say that it is most like small-medium hydro, actually. You have a flow that is intermittent but relatively predictable, and a discharge from a reservoir that you control (with fewer environmental constraints than most hydro plants).

  • Roland Riese

    What an insane waste of time and money.

    • Tom

      You’re a 70 year old child.

    • solarguy

      Oh really, please explain!

      • Joe

        …a Trolli …all the explanation required.

    • Jason Van Der Velden

      Murdoch sycophant