Abengoa may sign miner to support solar tower + storage plant

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Abengoa looks to sign giant iron ore miner to support Australia’s first large scale solar tower power plant with molten salt storage.

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Spanish renewable energy giant Abengoa is hopeful of convincing a major iron ore mine operator in Western Australia to sign a contract to buy electricity to support the groundbreaking 20MW solar tower with storage plant it is proposing for the state’s mid-west region.

Abengoa, in May, revealed it had received funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to conduct a feasibility study into what could be Australia’s first large-scale solar power tower with storage facility.

abengoa solar thermalIt will likely be located at Perenjori, a small village about 350km north of Perth, on the edge of Western Australia’s main grid and near a booming mining region.

Abengoa’s Australia business manager, James Harding, revealed on Wednesday that the plant was likely to have six hours of molten salt storage, which would enable dispatchability, though probably not 24/7 output. He said he was hopeful of signing a power purchase agreement with a nearby iron ore miner, who was interested in such technologies to offset the soaring cost of diesel.

Concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) with storage is considered to be the next big breakthrough for renewables, given that it can deliver dispatchable energy at scale, and, according to Abengoa and others, will be able to do so at the same cost of baseload gas by as early as 2020.

“What we want to do is to demonstrate that CSP (concentrating solar thermal) is a dispatchable technology, and that it can capture maximum value for the network,” Harding said.

Harding says 20MW is on the small side of an optimal plant size, but a good minimum capacity to demonstrate the ability of the technology in Australia – Abengoa is already building, or has built plants in South America, the US, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

He notes that the 110MW plant planned for Chile’s Atacama desert will be built without subsidy – a reflection of the excellent solar resources and the high cost of electricity in that country.

In Australia, the most likely market is for miners, who are paying extraordinarily high costs for diesel or gas. Harding says there is growing interest from this sector in solar technologies, particularly with storage. Rio Tinto has signed a deal for solar PV plus storage, and rival technology player Solar Reserve is also looking at the same market.

The idea of a small demonstration plant is to create a pathway for cost reductions in future plant. Some of these will come from economies of sale, and much of it from building local supply chains and operational earnings.

The power tower where a receiver collects the heat from thousands of heliostats (mirrors) will be 150m tall. Abengoa is currently considering whether to use its own 140 square metre mirrors, or a small 5 square metre design developed by Australia’s CSIRO.

Large molten salt storage tanks with temperatures of up to 565°C. The plant will have an annual output of around 100GWh a year.

Local developers WestGen and National Power will also have a role in the project.

Harding said the local council was very supportive. Being located at the edge of the state’s main grid also provided an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of delivering dispatchable energy into a market with a big demand for high value peak and shoulder electricity. “There is an excellent prospect for a further rollout of solar thermal power,” Harding said.

The feasibility study will be completed by the end of the year, but the project may depend on future policies and the retention of ARENA as a standalone institution, with funds available to be deployed for such first-of-their-kind technologies.

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13 Comments
  1. barrie harrop 4 years ago

    Just a dream, not enough reliable base load for any mining group,who draw huge demands–let alone energy price .
    Then we have frying the native bird life factor to deal with.

    • Petra Liverani 4 years ago

      It is very unfortunate that CSP kills birds but you need to get what kills birds in perspective. http://climatecrocks.com/2013/05/20/why-coal-and-nuclear-plants-kill-far-more-birds-than-wind-power/

      There’s a mine in Chile already that has reduced fossil fuel use by 50% with an Abengoa parabolic trough solar thermal plant.
      http://www.abengoasolar.com/web/en/nuestras_plantas/plantas_para_terceros/chile/index.html

      • barrie harrop 4 years ago

        CSP kills lots of rare birds including the endangered black cockatoo.
        On the other hand http://www.mobilelng.net.au/company/ combine with our conventional PV/synced to gas engines no birds are at risk,plus we could save up to 50% in diesel fuel costs,with a cap x less by 200%.

        • Petra Liverani 4 years ago

          Gas doesn’t kill birds? http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/7-500-songbirds-killed-at-canaport-gas-plant-in-saint-john-1.1857615.
          Any fossil fuel has an impact on nature one way or another (you have to mine it, transport it and burn it). Renewables have a much lesser impact (especially when you consider climate change which, unfortunately, powerful Australians ignore) and I believe they are also more amenable to modification to lessen their impact (although I don’t have evidence of that at the moment).

          • barrie harrop 4 years ago

            The planned location for this solar tower is habitat of the very rare endangered black cockatoo,maybe the Spanish need to do more research?

          • Petra Liverani 4 years ago

            And the mine and gas aren’t going to have an impact on the black cockatoos?

          • Travis Lochert 4 years ago

            When did the gas industry start caring about wildlife habitat?

          • barrie harrop 4 years ago

            “Surveys are undertaken from autumn and
            extend through to spring capturing seasonal variation in flora and fauna
            populations. The aim of this work is to provide an understanding of the
            conservation values from both a local and regional perspective to ensure we
            minimise and manage the impact of our activities.”

            http://www.santos.com/our-activities/eastern-australia/new-south-wales/environment/protecting-biodiversity.aspx

          • Petra Liverani 4 years ago

            Pleeaase. I’ve been to the Pilliga and seen the destruction caused by CSG with my own eyes, including a dead spill site where obvious endeavours to rehabilitate have completely failed. http://www.stoppilligacoalseamgas.com.au/?page_id=61

        • Giles 4 years ago

          CSP kills black cockatoos? where is evidence of that. Those birds only found in Australia, which has no CSP to speak of.

          • barrie harrop 4 years ago

            Item ,about CSP plans in West Aust–location planned habitat for the rare black cockatoo.

            Try this for evidence in general about bird kills from new solar tower installation .

            “A
            giant solar-power project officially opening this week in the California desert
            is the first of its kind, and may be among the last, in part because of growing
            evidence that the technology it uses is killing birds.”

            http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304703804579379230641329484

  2. michael 4 years ago

    isn’t Mt Gibson’s mine (guess at iron ore player) 70-80km away from perenjori and wouldn’t require full 20MW base anyway? seems strange not to build it close to the demand source or an expensive transmission line will also be required

  3. Gary 4 years ago

    Barrie, I think you need more education in bird deaths, if you really care – see Petra’s link. CSP will still maintain its diesel backup to maintain security of supply for mining interests, but will drastically reduce the need for that expensive option. Lots of work going on to limit bird deaths from CSP.

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