Solar vs gas: Why South Australia needs to seize the future

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Solar storage developer says it would be a shame if Australian authorities “doubled down” on gas, and missed the opportunity to introduce new technologies that could lower prices, boost jobs, and accelerate clean energy transition.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The proponents of a world-leading solar storage technology have challenged South Australian and federal authorities to embrace new technologies to solve their “energy crisis”, rather than doubling down on gas-fired generation.

The US company SolarReserve is trying to win a contract to provide power for the South Australian government, but is locked in competition with gas plant alternatives, including one plant that has been operating for 17 years but was mothballed because it could make more money selling gas to the export market.

The decisions to be taken by state and federal agencies over the next few months are seen as a pivot point for the make-up Australia’s energy system, and there is a lot at stake.

If renewable energy technologies with storage can get a foothold in the system, then the case for existing fossil fuel technologies is dramatically reduced. If the new technologies fail get a significant foothold, then the pace of transition could slow dramatically.


SolarReserve has built the world’s biggest solar tower and molten storage plant in Nevada, the 110MW Crescent Dunes facility with 10 hours of storage (pictured above) that has a 20 year contract to provide electricity at night time to Las Vegas, and is about to begin construction of a similar plant in South Africa.

The plant uses giant mirrors (called heliostats) that track the sun and reflect the heat on a collection point in a tower where molten salt is heated to temperatures as high as 565°C.

When electricity is needed, the hot salt is used to boil water and produce steam to drive a turbine, while molten salt can be stored for use later. The plant can be turned on and off as required or it can provide 24/7 power, or in big blocks as is the case in Las Vegas.

“We think it’s a huge game changer,” CEO Kevin Smith told RenewEconomy in an interview this week during a visit to Australia, where he met state and federal ministers and agencies. “The holy grail is energy storage … and we have cracked the code on energy storage.”

SolarReserve has been working for several years on a proposal to build a 110MW/8 hour storage facility in Port Augusta, effectively replacing some of the capacity vacated when the last coal-fired power station closed down for the last time.

Solar towers (and other solar thermal technologies) with storage are recognised by most analysts as a critical component of future grids with high renewable energy penetration. The International Energy Agency, for instance, says it could account for 15 per cent of the world’s electricity needs in a future low-carbon scenario.

The concept has also been supported by the Coalition and Labor, who both promised in the recent federal election campaign to set aside funds to introduce solar storage technologies in Australia, specifically solar thermal. So far, only some pilot plants have been built, although one solar thermal plant is providing heat for a massive tomato farm near Port Augusta.

Those funding resources, however, have been reduced, with both mainstream parties agreeing to strip $500 million from ARENA, and proposing to slash 4/5 of the proposed $1 billion budget of the CEIF.

Smith says Australia should be at the forefront of the technology, and says South Australia is an ideal market because of its excellent solar resources, its high penetration of variable wind and solar resources, its volatile electricity prices and its dependence on gas-fired generation.

He says solar thermal with storage would guarantee new competition in the market, create potentially thousands of jobs, and over the medium to long term, reduce prices.

“The more gas you burn, the more expensive it is. With solar it is the opposite – the more solar power you can generate, the lower the cost.”

The problem with South Australia at the moment is that the government is facing an election soon, and is under intense pressure from conservative media and politicians, and large energy users, on the issue of electricity prices.

These price spikes have been blamed on the government’s pro-renewables policy, which means the state now sources more than 45 per cent of its electricity demand from wind and solar, making it a world leader.

But high electricity prices are not new to South Australia and, if anything, the prominence of wind and solar has reduced prices, not pushed them.

The recent price spikes – once common when the state relied only on coal and gas – were the result of soaring gas prices, a closed link to Victoria and surging demand, which left the handful of gas-fired generators able to exploit their market control and charge what they wanted.

SolarReserve and some analysts fear that the South Australian government might go for a short-term fix to take off the political heat, and write a contract for the 17-year old Pelican Point generator, which they now regard as a “new competitor” even though it was mothballed in late April, just 10 days before the closure of the coal generator.

Smith says his company is not just competing against incumbent technologies. “We are competing against a philosophy. If they decide to go with Pelican Point that is a short-term decision, it won’t actually solve their problems.

“It would be a shame if they tied their wagon to gas, and doubled down on natural gas price volatility when they have the opportunity to diversify and lock in a fixed price.”

SolarReserve’s biggest challenge is the time frame and the initial cost of a first-of-its kind project in Australia. Like solar PV a few years ago, solar towers and storage is expensive, needing large up-front capital investments, but like solar PV, it expects its technology costs to fall quickly.

The hardware for Crescent Dunes cost $US760 million ($A1 billion), and SolarReserve estimates that Australia’s first project in Port Augusta will cost $A650 million, and will likely fall another 20 per cent in subsequent projects.

Operating costs are also falling, although that depends on the cost of finance (5.5 per cent in a proposed Chile project, but 11 per cent in South Africa) and the strength of the solar resource.

In Chile, where the solar resource is “spectacular”, the company recently bid a price of $US63-$US68/MWh for a 110MW solar plant, a record low price for the technology and beating bids from new coal and gas plants.

It is entering a new tender this December, and has mapped out sites for eight large solar plants in Chile, and another 10 in South Africa. It has also signed an agreement with China coal giant Shenhua and China State Grid to build 1,000MW of capacity, or 10 big plants.

“The big issue is getting costs down to compete in the market,” Smith says. Once the first plant is built in Australia, he says, obtaining commercial finance and investment should be a lot easier, and established supply chains should also bring down costs.

“All of that comes with scale. We want to be promoting a pipeline for South Australia and Australia in general to get supply chain excited, lenders comfortable, EPC firms comfortable with the technology and competing with each other to drive down costs.”

It sees potential for another five plants in South Australia, as well as opportunities in Western Australia, Queensland, and NSW.

But the technology will require help from ARENA or the CEIC or Clean Energy Finance Corporation for its first project. Without it, SolarReserve admits, it will not be able to price its output at a level that would satisfy the South Australian government.

With that assistance, it says it can match any other new-build facility, but will struggle to compete with a gas plant that has already been operating in the market for 17 years. The state government is also looking to lock in the new supply from the end of 2017. SolarReserve would not be able to build its plant in that time-frame, but says that the issue can be solved with short-term contracts.

“We see Australia as a key market,” Smith says. “It’s got a great solar resource. If they just want to put cheap PV on the market, that helps reduce spending on fossil fuels, but it is not the whole solution.”

And one of the points that the company was keen to make in its meeting with South Australia premier Jay Weatherill this week was that it is proven and reliable technology – and does not, as some detractors and competitors claim – need to be backed up by gas.

Crescent Dunes, which began operations late last year, is still going through its “ramp up” period but will start delivering on its Las Vegas contract in January next year. Smith says the technology is working as well as, or even better than, expected.

“This is low risk yet innovative technology. Australia should not have to reinvent the wheel, but it’s got to have storage.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  1. Askgerbil Now 3 years ago

    The renewable energy sector seems hamstrung by a lack of ideas on how to compete with fossil fuel suppliers.

    Demand-response is being used with considerable success to avoid network and generator capacity costs that would otherwise only be utilised during a few periods a year.

    Manufacture of bio-methane by algae feeding on waste water, sunshine and carbon dioxide is a source of natural gas, renewable energy and energy storage that displaces fossil fuels in existing fossil fuel generation plant. At the same time it improves the quality of water treatment for towns, cities and agriculture.

    All the solutions exist. The renewable energy industry just needs to overcome its selective myopia.

    • Giles 3 years ago

      Demand response exists, but under the current rules have to be funnelled through the very same companies that control the gas generators. That is not competition. An attempt to change those rules was rejected. It’s not a failure of imagination, it’s called regulatory capture. As AGL’s andrew Vesey has publicly admitted, the energy market rules are designed to protect the incumbents, not the consumers, and certainly not new competitors.

      • Askgerbil Now 3 years ago

        I thought the energy regulator’s decision was to the effect that existing rules didn’t prevent new entrants into the growing market for demand response equipment and services.
        NSW has several examples of electricity grid companies – the ones who are paying for peak electricity supply and network capacity that sits idle 80 – 90 percent of the time – looking at lower-cost solutions.
        See for instance from January 29, 2014: “TransGrid and EnerNOC – a leading demand response provider and energy intelligence software company – combined forces to deliver a demand management project involving more than 80 sites across metropolitan Sydney.”

    • Kenshō 3 years ago

      Demand Response is the providence of networks although Load Management is the providence of the onsite inverter/charger. Loads can be turned on and off by the inverter/charger and if needed staggered consecutively within the solar day. This reduces commercial and industrial demand charges and only a small battery is needed to the extent the loads are powered within the solar day. The approach could also be used by home/offices, the retired and anyone who owns their work premise. Those who can benefit by a small amount of storage need lead the way, as they can most easily obtain an early payback. This gives us momentum, community experience and a knowledge base that can be shared. In this way, Load Management could lead to Demand Management strategies. The community would need to begin.

  2. Kenshō 3 years ago

    “This is low risk yet innovative technology. Australia should not have to reinvent the wheel, but it’s got to have storage.”

    Can the risk be reduced even further by beginning with a smaller project than the $A650 million 110MW proposal? This would provide Australia with a utility level pilot project, while building community confidence and support. Price spikes would still be exponentially reduced, to the extent the SA network is unchained from market gaming.

  3. solarguy 3 years ago

    The way I see it, Solar Reserves offer is a no brainer! It ticks all the boxes, jobs, no ongoing fuel costs, cheaper power and NO emissions.

    Surely common sense will rule here Jay!

    It is after all 2016 and time is not on our side!

    • Kenshō 3 years ago

      If the SA government is facing an election and electricity is a sensitive issue with smoke and mirrors, I think they need to step sensitively. It might take the electorate a while to get a grip on the issues and the realities. It would be a shame to push forward with gusto to win the battle and lose the war. You said they can do financially viable smaller scale projects, what’s wrong with that?

      • solarguy 3 years ago

        Hearing you mate, with the election it’s seems to be the right wing media that has bad things to say and the truth is always the first casualty of war. And this is a war between the FF incumbents v’s the people and the SA government.

        The media will pounce on a smaller CST plant by trying to convince voters it can’t compete with gas and other bullshit.

        If government polling suggests that voters are more inclined to vote for a smaller plant, well fair enough, but then the media could come out and say that Jay isn’t convinced by the technology or that it’s not economic.
        110Mw would be needed capacity right now.

  4. Ian 3 years ago

    $ 650 million for a 110MW mirror solar plant is a big ask, when wind farms are priced at less than $2 /W and PV solar roughly the same. Battery storage has a cost of $1.30/WH This mirror solar plant would have a salt storage of maybe 110MWH the article does not say. It’s use to South Australia is as a storage device ,no more no less, so for the energy generation component $220 million that leaves $420 million for the salt storage that’s roughly $4/WH of salt storage. Lithium batteries come in cheaper than that

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      Yep 110Mw for 8hrs as David said and it’s cost is considerably cheaper than batteries @ $134/ Kwp built and will get cheaper.

    • Giles 3 years ago

      110MW at eight hours storage, so that is 880MWh of storage. for comparison with lithium, don’t forgot you would have to change the batteries over at least once in 25-30 years, most likely twice.

      • Ian 3 years ago

        sorry Giles, and solarguy, you have not answered the question. Did solar reserve specifically say 880MWH of salt storage or is that figure your calculation of 110MWH x 8 hours? I would suggest that quoting two disjointed figures of 110 MW and then 8 hours storage is purposely ment to mislead . You assume there is this simple correlation between these two figures but it may not necessarily be so. After all a solar plant with a peak output of 110MW will certainly not produce 110MW throughout the day. If it’s anything like a PV plant it would at best produce 550 MWH in a day. Besides they say they will be able to store electricity for 8 hours, but they don’t say how much. Perhaps thermal leakage prevents storage for longer than 8 hours!

        • Giles 3 years ago

          Yes, they did say 880MWh of molten salt storage.

          • Ian 3 years ago

            Thank you for clarifying that.

            When quoting peak out put of a PV plant this is generally the theoretical peak for specific standard insolation, on a perfect sunny day lasting 12 hours of sunshine a 1KW PV never achieves 12 x 1 KWH, it’s more like 6 or 7KWH. The solar reserve plants in Navada and South Africa quote electricity production figures suggesting their nameplate capacity X 12 to 13 hours all year round. Does this mean that they over design their plants or does this mean that they give over optimistic production figures?

            Not trying to trash their offering , just curious!

          • Giles 3 years ago

            Until we see a year of full production, we’d have to assume both. But in my discussions with them, they are talking very high capacity factors – high 80% to low 90% in Chile for instance. And remember, that eight hours storage translates into 16 hours or more at lower outputs. You don’t need 16 hour storage to get through the night in Europe (or is it 20 hours), but you can get through the night at a lower output. So Gemasolar, for instance, has gone 16 days straight in winter without interruption.

          • Gary Rowbottom 3 years ago

            As I understand it, for the proposed Port Augusta plant with 8 hours storage, at the design insolation figure, the plant can store 880 MWh of output per day, in addition to producing to that same capacity (110 MW) during the day when the sun is providing energy. For Crescent Dunes, on average at the design DNI value for that plant, Crescent Dunes is expected to suppy 500 GWh/year of energy in total. That will not be getting measured contractually until January 2017. Any new plant has some teething problems, there’s a mind boggling number of in many cases insignificant pieces of equipment that all need to work reliably for any complex power station to work. The proposed Port Augusta plant, with 8 hours storage, is designed to supply 480 GWh/year in total. The design DNI takes into account that the insolation varies due to cloud, season etc. On a perfectly cloud free day, the insolation value forms a sort of bell curve, it is always changing. A CST with storage plant really runs on a captured volume of hot liquid (molten salt), it buffers exactly what energy the sun is providing minute by minute. Giles’ info is correct in other posts as far as I know. Bring it on.

  5. Don McMillan 3 years ago

    Anyone investing $650M in infrastructure will require guarantees. Risk vs cost to the taxpayer is the question. Natural Gas exploration onshore Australia is effectively dead. So we cannot rely on natural gas supply in the long run. The proposed incentive initiatives for NG is highlighting energy mismanagement & it will not work.
    Politian’s now base their decisions on “community concerns” so there is a good chance that this proposal may succeed. And the winner is coal.

    • Kenshō 3 years ago

      When you say “there’s a good chance the proposal may succeed”, I guess your referring to the proposal for Pelican Point to bid in and additionally, money to be invested to attempt to ramp up gas extraction. If that is so, I’m wondering what % of that will be CSG? In my City Council, in Gloucester AGL attempted to go ahead with CSG in an area where academics said there was relatively low geological stability for CSG extraction and hence there is risk in containing water contamination during the hydraulic fracturing. A greens candidate even ran for election gaining 10% of the vote possibly due to her anti-CSG leadership campaigns.

      • Don McMillan 3 years ago

        Wrong I was referring to SolarReserve’s proposal, we need to learn the value of a reliable electricity network. Natural gas industry has lost the battle, so now we sit back and see what happens. If you oppose CSG you oppose natural gas. CSG is more environmentally friendly than conventional gas. CSG well’s required to isolate 0 or 1 or 2 aquifers whereas conventional much deeper 10 to 15 aquifers. Fracture stimulation has been used in NG here in OZ since the 1960’s – industrial process since the 1980’s. Bingo no aquifers damaged. In the US Frac Stim started in the 1860’s [Col Roberts exploding torpedo]. Millions of wells fraced no damage. Proof No litigation. Trust me if we damaged an aquifer litigation would be unrelenting. I hope you promote banning NG and its derived products e.g fertiliser from Gloucester.
        Historical Note: It was NSW politicians that invited CSG companies to invest in NSW. If NSW had any decency they should compensate for the $3B invested. Sovereign risk NSW = Venezuela . If you do not want mining why invite them in the first place?

        • Kenshō 3 years ago

          Thanks for describing how CSG and NG both require the isolation of aquifers and NG more so. With giving out a license, no government can compensate a private company as there are reasonable risks of any exploratory project, especially regarding resources in the ground or under our oceans. Any venture involves risk and profit, and these cannot be separated. Just as AGL needed to drill pilot wells, SolarReserve will need a pilot project in this country, though unlike CSG where the geology can vary greatly, sunshine appears more predictable and straightforward. CSG requires more and more drilling to keep extracting more gas, whereas sunshine will be reliable for at least the duration of SolarReserve’s project.

          • Don McMillan 3 years ago

            If life was that simple. Note the chemicals found in aquifers are from what is sprayed, spilt, deposited on the surface. So….

          • Kenshō 3 years ago

            Elsewhere you’ve highlighted gas is a precious resource we use for many purposes and engineers do a better job of protecting the environment than the exaggerated claims of their adversaries suggest. I respect your expertise. If we put the environmental safety of fracture stimulation aside, this article is comparing the value of two different fuel sources. If gas is a precious resource why would we burn it compared to using mirrors to focus the sun on molten salt and produce steam to generate electricity? Then precious gas can be set aside for those uses where it is truly essential. In this way the SA government has a moral responsibility to protect precious finite resources and use a relatively eternal resource in its place wherever possible. Do you agree?

          • Don McMillan 3 years ago

            Gas is not a precious resource it is an abundant resource in OZ. I do not know this SolarReserve technology but when I read “too good to be true” synopsis alarm bells start ringing.
            The last ten years I have evaluate numerous projects that have gone wrong. The prime error is the initial assumptions and size of the project. Assumptions to costs, plant capacity etc. What happens if costs are doubled and storage capacity halved?
            I have seen promising new technologies implemented on a large scale to fail and generate such angst it has lost its market forever.
            When introducing new technology or new concept to the area always start with a small pilot plant. My first engineering job was to implement a technology extensively used in England to fail here due to Ozzie dust. Crawl walk run.

          • Kenshō 3 years ago

            You can see from another comment, I’m also open to a smaller pilot project from SolarReserve and hence sharing your cautious orientation. What do you mean by this: “The proposed incentive initiatives for NG is highlighting energy mismanagement & it will not work.” and what do you think is the best path forward for the CSG industry and the use of CSG?

          • Don McMillan 3 years ago

            Some Governments [incl SA] are considering subsidising [or incentives] natural gas which is ridiculous. This is what happens when tamper with the market. CSG industry in NSW & Victoria will never recover.

          • Kenshō 3 years ago

            The market is apparently exporting the lions share of gas overseas with little regard for a return to the citizens whose country produced it. The market has had extreme bidding behaviour where big players have taken advantage of a dominant position.

          • Giles 3 years ago

            It’s important to remember that most gas developers won’t extract the gas unless they get the export price, or at least the net0back price. So without exports, the reserves wouldn’t be extracted. simple as that.

          • Don McMillan 3 years ago

            The only reason for gas prices in the US to drop from $13/GJ to $3/GJ was due to an oversupply generated by the small players + technology. Of course every producer want high gas prices but in a free market they do not choose the price. In OZ we have historically enjoyed low gas prices often lower than the US. In recent times the effective banning of NG exploration and Frac Stim in Tas, Vic, NSW and now NT has killed both the supply side of the equation and most importantly ALL the small explorers. This is a politically generated undersupply = high prices. This is the first time in history high [gas] commodity prices is not attracting investment.

          • Giles 3 years ago

            Yep, and that sent most of the gas explorers broke. And the likes of BHP Billiton had to write off billions of dollars of investment in their North American assets. Most smaller gas companies have much smaller balance sheets and can’t afford to be as stupid as them,

          • Kenshō 3 years ago

            I think the question is, will SA offering any kind of incentive to the gas industry genuinely help re-establish competition in the market and prevent price spikes? Or is it just a politically motivated move that will do little or nothing? Does it have to be choosing between incentives for gas and a solar tower/storage?

          • Kenshō 3 years ago

            A challenge with the article title on “seizing the future”, is politicians need immediate solutions that can help secure an election victory, by securing fair electricity prices in the short term.

          • Gary Rowbottom 3 years ago

            Well it had the chance to seize the future some years ago – there has been a steady community/NGO advocacy for this for at least 5 years. They can at least try to keep up now.

          • Kenshō 3 years ago

            ARENA just had a large scale PV round finish and didn’t award anything to SA. I personally think SA needs some hope by getting some RE/storage up ASAP or SA will resort to strategies used in the past.

          • Gary Rowbottom 3 years ago

            I’m not too surprised SA missed out – what SA need is renewable energy with storage, the ARENA grant round didn’t encourage that. Other states, with less RE penetration still have a lot of lower hanging fruit (cheaper) RE options, hence that round went to those projects. As RE % increases, storage, utility scale storage becomes more important/valuable. Enter CST with storage. Time to get a foothold. So it is a little expensive, because of all those jobs involved in building/operating them. Not too cut up about that aspect personally.

          • Kenshō 3 years ago

            I’m not cut. I’m in NSW and have PV/storage. Solar Reserves project could stop the electricity price spikes and confirm SA has a bright and shiny future with a resilient RE grid. That in term would have tremendous value to the country, more for the symbolic value of consolidating a paradigm. A backward step would weaken and slow the RE/storage trajectory in this country. It’s a tension between inertia and momentum. It’s necessary to fully cognise the implications. This goal would signify community momentum and an awareness tipping point more than a technology tipping point. It’s the awareness tipping point that has the import for the nation.

          • Don McMillan 3 years ago

            US gas exploration is lower due to low gas price. If gas price increases so will exploration investment. USA is OK. In OZ gas price is high but exploration is basically non-existent [due to politics]. OZ gas price can only decrease by closing factories e.g IPL fertiliser plant [ASX 10May16], smelters etc,

          • Gary Rowbottom 3 years ago

            I think Solar Reserve do not need a pilot here. They have a replica plant operating commercially in Nevada now, and did their pilot plant work prior to that, as did other companies. Their first proposed plant in itself won’t solve SA’s power woes, but it is a start, a foothold for CST technology, which by virtue of its storage has a role to play, a share of the future energy mix in a carbon constrained world. To get to that share, a first step needs to be taken, and all the opportunity lies before the SA Government to do that. Make it so.

          • Don McMillan 3 years ago

            There are numerous examples of working technologies in the OS requiring changes to work here. My first ever project intro computer tech from England failed due to the type of OZ Dust. Another eg is a Pipeline failed due to OZ termites attacking the coating etc. US termites did not.
            What concerns me is this investment will come with strings attached. If it goes wrong the taxpayer pays… Also many Jobs will be lost forever. I cannot see how factories in SA are sustainable. Management of these factories must be think that they should either move before they go broke or risk these experiments

        • Geoff 3 years ago

          Astounding that you think CSG is more environmentally friendly than conventional gas. At least with conventional you’re not pumping 900+ chemicals into the ground and hoping, or more so denying that it’s doing any damage. 1 in 20 well casings fail so do the math on how many potential wells are leaking.

          • Don McMillan 3 years ago

            CSG are shallow wells so the drilling mud composition is the same as what is used in water bores. Majority of CSG wells are barefoot design – Not fraced. Very few have been fraced. I have designed and fraced many in the Bowen Basin. The only “chemical” I used was small quantities of biocide in the ponds – Pumped just water and sand. If chemicals are used they are viscosity agents – stuff found in ice-creams. +900 chemicals EH? Conventional wells are much deeper have must handle high pressures and temperatures and the mud systems are far more complex. Same as the frac Stim process. Casing: if 1 in 20 failed we would be out of business + litigation would be unrelenting. It would be impossible to drill onshore let alone offshore {BP GOM was casing failure].
            If you are worried about wells then look at waterbores. There is no requirement to identify or isolate gas and water reservoirs. It was the farmers who discovered CSG. Also remember the Gaslands movie lighting the gas coming out of the tap. In NSW there are waterbores flowing gas for 50 years. No-one seems concerned about waterbores where the gas and water mix. Chemicals in waterbores are agriculture or “Spills from Surface” – Oaky QLD aquifer – alleged contamination from the defence dept – Litigation has started. We have been operating their since the 1960’s no litigation.

          • Kenshō 3 years ago

            Well I’ve never spoken to a hydraulic fracturing engineer before and think it’s awesome and courageous that you’ve turned up. There’s also ex-coal miners on this site and I’m an ex-soldier among other things. Perhaps we could all agree gas has a transitional role and will be needed by humanity for many many products in the future and the industry needs to be structured in a complimentary way to renewable energy.

          • Don McMillan 3 years ago


  6. David McKay 3 years ago

    The value of Solar Thermal is certainly storage. If you simply want to build large Solar plants, you would build PV. I like the Solar hybrid model where PV delivers during the day, while Thermal banks energy for delivery during high tariff times or to fill in the PV gaps. Include wind for even better outcomes. Hybridizing the power generation also potentially blends & dilutes the costs. Low cost load following RE is the aim.
    My understanding of storage capacity is that if the plant has a nameplate capacity of 110mW with 8 hours storage, that is 110mW for 8 hours.
    I believe the really important issues are kWh, capacity factors & load profile delivery, not nameplate capacity. You can’t sell nameplate capacity.
    We should also remember there are 2 Solar Thermal Projects being proposed for SA, the 2nd by an Australian group, Solastor, using local technology.
    There seems to be an automatic assumption that SA Solar Thermal means Solar Reserve.

    • Giles 3 years ago

      That’s because SolarReserve has built a 110MW plant and it is up and running. Solarstor has never generated any electricity, and would need to build a 1MW pilot plant first and run that for a year or two to see if the technology actually works. So, for signing contracts now, there is only one option.

      • David McKay 3 years ago

        Hold on. I seem to recall SR went from nothing straight to their 110mW plant, so I see little difference to Solastor. That plant is running, however, is still in ramp up.
        I understood Solastor have a couple of small plants running which provide performance data.
        I see less risk with Solastor as it is a completely modular system. If one module operates successfully, then 500? modules do the same. This also provides a great deal of system redundancy & opportunity for a ramped start.
        There is also the possibility of eSolar showing some interest as they already have a system operational in Port Augusta.

        • Giles 3 years ago

          “That plant is running, however, is still in ramp up.”

          Which plant are you talking about? If it is Lake Cargellico, that is not the case, it has never produced electricity, only heat.

          “I understood Solastor have a couple of small plants running which provide performance data.”

          Really? Where?

          • David McKay 3 years ago

            The ramp I am referring to is Ivanpah. Full operation of this plant has been slower than originally expected. End 2014? was original target I recall. This is not a negative though. I believe SR have adopted a slow & steady approach which is far better than a blaze of publicity then failure. I have been through that with a previous CSP business.
            Lake Catgelligo producing heat still provides valuable performance data, as the step between thermal energy & power is well know & has more to do with the BOP than the solar steam generator.
            I have also seen a presentation regarding a Chinese plant of Solastor design?

          • Giles 3 years ago

            Ivanpah is not impressive because it has no storage, which means it has to rely on gas to get things going in the morning. It is operating at or near designated output now, there was some misleading reporting about its ramp up, mostly by a couple of well known nuclear boosters here.
            Yes, Solastor says it has a Chinese plant, but they won’t say where it is, and the National Renewable Energy Agency, which keeps a global data-base that is regarded as the most comprehensive in the world, has no record of it.

          • David McKay 3 years ago

            Sorry, the ramp I was referring to was Tonopah. This plant is nearing commercial acceptance, however, my experience is that after this point you really need 12 months of “no excuses” operation prior to claiming victory. So the Chinese plant is a myth.

          • Giles 3 years ago

            Not sure it is a myth, it just hasn’t been located yet!

        • Giles 3 years ago

          Also, SolarReserve did not go from nothing – they did a 10MW pilot project.

          • David McKay 3 years ago

            I was not aware that SR had built a pilot plant. I have never heard any of my buddies at SR mention this. i will need to ask them about this. So, I’ve learnt something new.
            If the SA plant proceeds & I hope it does, it will be a competition on cost, performance, risk, etc. I just prefer an Australian based company & Technology be used.

  7. Kenshō 3 years ago

    “the government is facing an election soon, and is under intense pressure from conservative media and politicians, and large energy users, on the issue of electricity prices.”

    Is there a summary article on this website, debunking the myths and misinformation around electricity price rises and price spikes in SA?

      • Kenshō 3 years ago

        Is there a way for RenewEconomy’s myth busting expertise to be channelled into the upcoming SA election, so voters can make an informed decision?

      • Kenshō 3 years ago

        Well you’ve got the support of a committed team. Looks like your into battle with the fossil fuel sympathisers back on mainstream media. Your team is destined to bing into the mainstream radar.

      • Kenshō 3 years ago

        There’s the potential for SA to get it’s solar tower with its molten salt storage and the backbone of a distributed grid to be established. With help from your team and various stakeholders, SA government will launch an inaugural pilot project for the distributed RE/storage paradigm.

Comments are closed.

Get up to 3 quotes from pre-vetted solar (and battery) installers.