Graph of Day: How solar tower and storage sailed through eclipse

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It seems many people are still struggling with the idea of solar towers and storage, particularly those in the conservative press

Judith Sloan, the Murdoch columnist and self-described “Monkey’s Uncle”, is still struggling to get her mind around renewables, and dismissed the Port Augusta solar tower as a preposterous idea.

Her views have been shared by numerous other Murdoch columnists defending coal generation until the last lump is torn from Barnaby Joyce’s sweating palms and thrown into the incinerator.

Sloan appears convinced that the Port Augusta solar tower will be intermittent, won’t deliver power when needed and will only deliver energy for nine hours a day.

Just for the record, it is fully dispatchable, has eight hours storage and will likely operate for around 16 hours a day. Unlike a coal generator, it does not need to stay on when demand is low. And like a gas generator, it can increase its output when demand is high.

Indeed, what is truly horrifying to the fossil fuel ideologues – because that is what they are – is the idea that solar towers and storage can do pretty much what gas fired peaking stations can do , and coal generators, but with more flexibility, next to zero emissions, and at a cheaper price than new fossil fuels.

Nothing can illustrate this better than what happened on Monday during the solar eclipse. While non dispatchable solar PV wound down considerably as the moon passed in front of the sun, the output from Crescent Dunes, the 100MW facility built by the same company that will build in Port Augusta, remained constant.


This graph, tweeted by SolarReserve overnight, shows the blue line of the Crescent Dunes facility in Nevada, and the yellow line of the solar PV output in Nevada and California.

This highlights the ability of plant to maintain production and ride through disruptions such as cloud cover that affect the output of solar PV.

The plant can be configured in a variety of ways, but it is the flexibility and dispatchability that will be the key, particularly in a grid that will see increasing amounts of distributed generation, local renewable based micro-grids, and more variable renewables such as wind and solar, accompanied by fast-response battery storage, and longer-dated storage such as pumped hydro or even renewables-based hydrogen.

(Note: We will do a paragraph by paragraph take-down of Sloan’s latest nonsense in the not-to-distant future. But to explain the Monkey’s Uncle reference, we quote Sloan’s column:

“If sticking with the damaging renewable energy target and committing to a wildly excessive emissions reduction target under our commitment to the Paris climate agreement are not ideological, I’m a monkey’s uncle.”

We think the case is proven).  

  • solarguy

    It’s obvious this woman can’t blink and breath at the same time, LOL

  • Chris Fraser

    I’m glad RE paraphrases Judith’s work so I don’t have to. Thank you.

  • Mike Westerman

    Some journos don’t deserve to have the sun rise every morning…pyromaniacs will eventually either die out or have to slink back to their caves

  • phred01

    Solar eclipses don’t happen every day but it demonstrates the thermal inertia if the solar tower is strong enough to smooth out the electricity generation

    • GregS

      But is thermal inertia enough to overcome political inertia?

      • Alastair Leith

        economic inertia is and will overcome political inertia.

        probably not in time to save most endemic species in Australia but it will happen, and once the mining industry vote with their feet on mining sites using cheaper clean power from RE sources, MCA et al will be painted even bigger fools than they are today.

  • Just_Chris

    I’m quite enjoying commenting on various Australian news articles. I find it very therapeutic. I particularly enjoy when you get someone so angry that they complain in the comments section about the moderator blocking their comments – lies are ok but no corse language permitted 😃.

    • Rod

      It is strangely addictive but this is a quote I try to remember when it all gets too much.
      “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

      George Bernard Shaw

      Although sometimes I think I might be the pig.

  • BushAxe

    I laughed when I read her column -(at the library so I didn’t have to pay for it), it smacked of sheer desperation trying to find ways of discrediting the latest move into new technology.

  • Solarise ☀️

    Great that the article is taking on fossil fuel plants, but I note it’s also comparing a solar tower WITH storage and solar PV WITHOUT storage. Naturally, without storage, generation of either solar plant will be directly impacted by the sunlight it does(n’t) receive.
    Either way, great to see how the eclipse was so well managed!

    • Alastair Leith

      Even without storage the solar tower will still generate to some extent perhaps, there will be some inertia, Ivanpah has no storage capacity as such. They burn gas in the mornings, not sure how much during typical operations for cloud cover.

  • Alastair Leith

    How Sloan gets so much coverage on the ABC I have no idea. Essentially a partisan hack with strong opinions usually wedded to the past and capitalist mantras, no matter how much evidence is presented to the contrary. Where’s the expertise that she’s presented as having? I’ve never seen it shine once.