CWP proposes 250MW solar thermal + storage near Townsville | RenewEconomy

CWP proposes 250MW solar thermal + storage near Townsville

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CWP Renewables proposes 250MW solar tower and storage project near Townsville, while SolarReserve looking at six different projects in Queensland.

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Australian renewable energy developer CWP Renewables is proposing a 250MW solar tower and storage project near Townsville, saying it could be a cost effective alternative to either a new coal generator or even battery storage proposed by wind and solar projects.

The project – dubbed Freedom Energy One – was cited by the Queensland Labor party as part of its energy policy launch on Sunday, which includes a promised $50 million to “kick-start” solar thermal in the state.

The CWP project is one of a number of different proposals emerging for solar thermal in Queensland, including from SolarReserve, the US company that has built a similar installation in Nevada (pictured above) and has been contracted to build a 150MW facility near Port Augusta.

SolarReserve said on Monday it was looking to develop up to six solar thermal facilities in Queensland in the next 10 years, that will deliver up to 900MW of fully dispatchable firm renewable electricity, creating up to 24,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

CWP, which proposed a similar sized project – this time near the Kogan Creek power station in south west Queensland – nearly a decade ago as part of the ill-fated “Solar Flagships” program, says it has yet to finalise a site, but is looking at several possibilities south west of Townsville.

Nor has it finalised its technology partner, saying a decision would be made once the details of the project had been scoped, and which technology would better suit the local conditions and economic prospects.

In a statement, CWP estimated the project would have a capital cost of approximately $1.3 billion and would create over 2,000 jobs during the two year construction period.

This would encompass civil works, the installation of thousands of tracking mirrors (‘heliostats’), the installation of thermal receiver towers, thermal storage tanks and piping, and the construction of a new electrical substation. It would support more than 50 long term employees.

CWP says the project could include 12 hours of storage – again subject to further investigation, and would obviate the need for any new coal fired power station.

Project manager Andrew Dickson said solar thermal would not carry the same carbon risks as a coal project, or the same fuel price risks. And it would be more flexible and dispatchable than a coal fired generator.

“It is a counter argument for the need of a coal fired power station,” Dickson told RenewEconomy. “It adds flexibility and it is much faster (response). It goes to the question: Do you want ‘baseload’ or do you want dispatchability.”

CWP is also building the 270MW Sapphire wind farm in NSW, and is looking to add significant amounts of solar PV and battery storage to that project.

“This Concentrated Solar Thermal project can deliver dispatchable, emissions-free power to North Queensland, together with thousands of high value jobs which utilise the existing skills of the North Queensland workforce” managing director Alex Hewitt said in a statement.

The statement said CST power works by concentrating the heat of the sun’s rays using mirrors and a thermal receiver. The concentrated energy can be stored in a fluid such as molten salt, or in solid graphite blocks.

This heat can be stored until when it is most needed to generate and supply power to the electrical grid This system can supply electricity to the evening electrical peaks when the sun may not be shining, or the wind may not be blowing.

When generation is required, the stored heat is converted into superheated steam, which is used to drive a steam turbine generator to create electrical power.

“The generation end is very similar to a coal fired power station, but instead of crushing and burning dirty coal to create heat, the heat is obtained from concentrated sunlight,” Hewitt said.

“It has long term storage for flexible generation with a faster dispatch than a coal fired power station. It entails construction and operations jobs which are familiar to North Queensland power and LNG workers, enabling workers to transition to jobs which have long term security.”

Subject to authority approvals project construction would start in the first half of 2019.


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  1. trackdaze 3 years ago

    How much water does a CSP use comparing it to a coal fired power station?

    Brownsville needs to conserve water.

    • Tom 3 years ago

      They are often dry cooled, although this imposes a few % auxiliary loss. Note that Kogan Creek is dry cooled.

  2. George Takacs 3 years ago

    Not sure how this is financially viable. Assuming a capacity factor of 20%, project lifetime of 30 years, annual running costs amounting to 2% of capital cost, and 5% discount rate, gives this project an LCOE or breakeven price of $253/MWh. Even assuming no running costs and 40 year lifetime only brings the lcoe down to $173/MWh.

    • David Osmond 3 years ago

      I’d suspect a capacity factor well over 40%, possibly even more than 50%. Solar Reserve’s CSP for Port Augusta were predicting a CF of 42%. Townsville would have a better solar resource. And if it has 12 hours of storage compared to Solar Reserve’s 8 hours, then they’ll probably have more area of mirrors per MW, with the extra heat sent to storage rather than through the generator, which will also boost the CF relative to Port Augusta.

    • David McKay 3 years ago

      This is not PV, so with thermsl storage, CF would be much higher.

    • Giles 3 years ago

      Crescent Dunes has a capacity factor of over 50%. not sure where you get 20% from.

      • George Takacs 3 years ago

        Thanks Giles, David M and David O. I guess I am still to get my head around the fundamental difference in the way the power output of a solar thermal plant varies over the course of a day, compared with a fixed solar PV array. So is it the case that the reflectors in the solar thermal array, all making different angles to the Sun, means once the Sun is reasonably high that the power output does not vary as much as it does with a fixed PV array? Is this the reason for a much higher capacity factor? It makes sense to me now but I had not really thought about it before. Anyhow, redoing the calculations I can see how it would be viable at 42% capacity factor, bringing the lcoe down to $120/MWh assuming 30 yrs and 2% of capital costs as annual running costs with 5% discount rate.

        • Giles 3 years ago

          Yep, so the controls on the mirrors are very tight, making sure they getting maximum reflection at all times and pointing to the spot on the tower. so CF is high.
          You getting closer to the lCOE. s.a. government paying around $75/MWh for its plant, but solarreserve will likely sell into peaks to make up for its LCOE, which people estimate at closer to $100/MWh.

        • David Osmond 3 years ago

          Hi George, it’s more a case that you can size the field of mirrors independently of the size of the generator. With no storage, you would size the mirror field so that around noon on a sunny day it would generate as much heat as required by the generator. The capacity factor would be similar, though a bit less than PV with tracking. But with several hours of storage, you can double the size of the mirror field, so around noon, you’re collecting twice as much heat as required by the generator, but you divert half of the heat to storage to be used for later after the sun has set. This almost doubles the capacity factor. If you triple the size of the mirror field, and add enough storage, you could get capacity factors exceeding 70%. Obviously it costs money to increase the mirror field and storage capacity, so it’s a case of optimising the extra cost versus the benefit of a higher capacity factor.

  3. Dennis Abbott.. 3 years ago

    Solar Thermal – CST with storage is a winner, great for the environment, jobs, the grid, consumers and the country. Location of these plants is rather important, Category 2 to 5 cyclone zone would be a risky location, 200km inland a lot less risk.

    • Joe 3 years ago

      Move it inland and plonk it…in the Galilee Basin. Adani can nick off back to India…without any coal.

  4. News Views 3 years ago

    Strange that it would be built near Townsville – you build power stations near population centres and industrial/commercial load. There is no demand in Townsville. Demand on Ergon’s network actually drops at midday as solar kicks in. And you are only going to build a power station if you have guaranteed sales of the load first. Good luck with this one.

    • Chris Ford 3 years ago

      Load profile at midday is irrelevant to a solar thermal plant. Sell at night, or whenever prices are highest.

  5. Richard 3 years ago

    This is just the sort of project that will be favored by the NEG. Perhaps it is the solar and wind tower installers here, that are squealing about the NEG, because for the first time the cost of storage and backup will be factored into their installations and the economics don’t look quite so rosy.
    With a guarantee of backup being a bipartisan approach now. Solar thermal makes a hell of a lot of sense in Australia and with the technology only just at the beginning of the experience curve, it may be curtains for some large scale wind and solar longer term without cost effective storage. And it certainly will be over for coal and gas.

    The market is sorting this out quicksmart.

    • Alex Hromas 3 years ago

      I doubt it wind is much cheaper to build and offers a quicker return on capital. This is probably the main reason why we have heard so little about solar thermal so far. The Lib/Nat attitude of hindering renewables wherever possible skews the market to projects with short build and return on capital ventures enabling them to push the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine barrow

      • Richard 3 years ago

        Wind is of no use when the wind isn’t blowing, that is the big problem. It has to account for the cost of storage to make its power supply consistent, otherwise, it is just freeloading off the back of other power providers, which provide the backup, while at the same time destroying the business of the backup. It’s NUTS!

        Thankfully, the renewable industry has been called on it, and you will see both major parties and probably the states adopting a NEG type model which guarantees a certain amount of backup for renewable development.

        Then, I think you will find that some wind and solar farms will have stiff competition from solar thermal when they have to wear the costs of storage. Hence the nervousness of the markets in relation to big wind and solar projects going forward. It’s amazing that people thought they could just keep wacking these things up, with no regard for storage.

        • Cooma Doug 3 years ago

          When the market rules are changed to open the door to the 21st century,
          The storage components will have greater value. A flat battery will be as valuable as a fully charged battery. A Mwh of storage will rotate through a 24/7 profile just as valuable as a Mwh of solar energy.

          The market will be hugely different to what we have now. Fossil fuels will be rediculous in the future.

          A battery will be a parking zone for money. Its like an ATM. They will not be an increased cost. They will be a compounding of the asset value.

          Unfortunately the neg applys a random number that is not a market response to appropriate rules. Its like forcing a fruit shop to have so many bananas with no consideration of demand.

        • Alex Hromas 3 years ago

          At present the penetration of wind and PV is low enough not to cause a problem. Certainty on renewables from the bockheads in charge would result in more CSS plants but that would upset their little apple cart. Pushing storage onto these generators is just a way of making them less attractive to investors and shoring up coal. Look at the latest Finkel report to get a bit of perspective

  6. Alex Hromas 3 years ago

    Why far north Queensland I thought that places like Cobar or Bourke would be financially more attractive they have excellent solar and are closer to big load centers

  7. Mohamed Cheikh 3 years ago

    PV with storage will be must compétitive than CSP with molten salt. With the invest amont of 1,3 billions $ we can do 750 MW PV with traker § 500 MWh storage capcity

  8. Richard 3 years ago

    I would like to point out there is nothing Australian about his company, other than the entity, CWP Renewables, is registered here. CWP is a Delaware LLC, owned by Exelon, a massive energy company in the US with revenues of 34.5Billion and 33000 employees. They are big in Nuke and natural gas. They have formed a partnership on this proposal with Wind Prospect Group, which is a British company based in Bristol and formed CWP Renewables.
    Based on my limited knowledge neither company has any experience of solar thermal, but perhaps they will contract Solar Reserve(a private US company) to build it? Just a thought!
    And I’m sure the tax arrangements of this particular setup are very attractive indeed.

    Anyway, I am suspicious by nature and I wonder what the clout of this particular arrangement has on a geopolitical level. Or even on our national energy policies.

    Any investigative journalists among us?

    • Giles 3 years ago

      You really are a complete drop-kick. The partnership with CWP and Wind prospect was made years ago, and all their wind projects rolled into what is essentially an Australian company. It has links with a company called Exeron which is a micro-grid controller company. Nothing to do with Exxon at all. Where do you dream this stuff up?

      • Richard 3 years ago

        It’s not Exxon ya berk, it’s Exelon! –

        Now follow.
        If you read to the bottom of the company description it says. – “CWP Renewables Pty Ltd. was formerly known as Wind Prospect CWP Pty Ltd.
        The company was incorporated in 2007 and is based in Newcastle,
        Australia. CWP Renewables Pty Ltd. is a joint venture between Wind
        Prospect Group Ltd and Continental Wind Partners LLC.”

        If you look up- Continental Wind Partners LLC, you will find it is registered in Delaware. see here-

        Now the link to Exelon was a bit obtuse but I found it here –

        Now unless Bloomberg has got its wires crossed, or there is companies with similar names, that seems pretty definitive to me.

        CWP Renewables is definitely the registered entity in Australia and it employs Australians, but it is owned by Exelon(US) through it’s Delaware offshoot, Continental Wind Partners LLC in partnership with Wind Prospect(British).

        Now Exeron is probably owned by Exelon(very similar names), that is why the companies have links, although I can’t find a connection immediately.

        If I’m right, you own me an apology! But happy to be proven wrong.

        • Giles 3 years ago

          It’s not Exelon, and it’s not Exxon. Like most of what you write, particularly on renewables and the NEG, you leap on to a misconception and turn it into a nonsense, and a complete falsehood.
          Read the link you provided, you goose, and you will note that the company cited is continental wind, not continental wind partners.
          I’ve checked with the MD of CWP and he confirms that the Exelon company has absolutely nothing – that is zero, zilch, nada – to do with CWP. And it certainly does not have anything to do with, as you suggested in your hysterical first posting, anything to do with Exxon. Its not a fossil fuel plot and its not tax evasion.
          So thanks in advance for your apology and please stop wasting my and everyone else’e time.

    • eric 3 years ago

      CWP Renewables is actually owned by Postscriptum Ventures, a private equity company, based in Guernsey and addressed in Luxembourg.
      So Australia’s biggest wind farm developer is using a classic tax evasion technique.

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