The world’s largest solar tower and molten salt storage facility – part of the biggest solar and storage complex in the world – is going through its final testing in Morocco, and one of our regular readers was on hand to witness it.
IT Power’s Keith Lovegrove, one of Australia’s leading solar thermal experts, has been in Morocco for the SolarPaces conference, which focuses on solar concentrating systems under the auspices of the International Energy Authority.
He – among others – was given a guided, and by the looks of things sometimes not-so-guided, tour of the 150MW Noor 3 solar tower complex, which stands alongside two newly built parabolic trough installations, one of them also with storage.
“We got an in depth visit at the Noor 1 (150MWe parabolic trough plant with 4 hours storage) and Noor 3 (150MWe salt tower with 7.5 hours storage). and drove past the Noor 2 trough plant also,” he writes.
“The Masen and Sener people were incredibly open in what they allowed us to see. That included observing operations in both Noor 1 and Noor 3 control rooms.
The impression was very positive:
– The Noor 1 plant has been in operation for some time. We got to see it in the middle of a cold start process. It performed perfectly with the entire field looking really good and tracking well. They / it confidently ramped to 158MWe while we watched and were storing energy and generating simultaneously.
– Noor 3 is in early commissioning with first grid synchronising back on 15 August. The field looked to be going well, they seem happy with their receiver and storage / power block, they were doing a range of tests when we were there and happily turned the whole field on to focus at a standby focal point just so we could take pictures.
“I am pretty sure this is about to be the best functioning full sized salt tower the world has seen so far. At 170m2 each heliostat is arround the floor area of the average Canberra home! No thinking small for those folks.”
Interestingly, he noted that SolarReserve, the US company proposing to build a very similar solar tower with storage in Port Augusta, gave a presentation on the first day of the conference in which they acknowledged issues at their 110MW Crescent Dunes plant in Nevada, but said these had now been addressed.
(Perhaps that is one reason behind the delay in financing for the South Australia project), which is now unlikely to be in place until early next year, pushing the anticipated 2020 project completion out of reach.
Lovegrove, who along with co-authors ITK analyst David Leitch and others, has prepared a detailed report into dispatchable renewable electricity options for Australia, which is soon to be released by ARENA, says towers seem to beat parabolic troughs on cost of energy.
That’s because they can get a higher temperature difference between hot and cold salt tanks and that means they give more bang for your buck in the storage area.
But, he observed, a major thing to watch though is that there are several pilot systems now happening where troughs are directly heating salt and getting very close to tower type temperatures, that could tighten the competition considerably.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of Renew Economy, and is also the founder of One Step Off The Grid and founder/editor of The Driven. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.