World’s biggest solar tower with storage starts commissioning

Noor solar tower

The world’s biggest solar tower power plant with molten salt storage has begun commissioning in Morocco, and is scheduled to begin production by October.

The 150MW Noor Ouarzazate III solar receiver, with 7.5 hours of molten salt storage is only the second big scale project of its type, and trumps its predecessor in size, the 110MW Crescent Dunes solar tower in Nevada.

The Noor solar tower is part of a massive 510MW facility being built by Spanish group Sener that combines this solar tower and storage facility with two other solar thermal facilities, using parabolic trough technology with between 3 and 6 hours storage.

It’s a landmark moment for Sener and the solar tower technology.

Sener built the 20MW Gemasolar solar tower near Seville in Spain in 2011 (which Renewconomy visited in 2016) at Ouarzazate (Morocco), but the technology has stalled since, over-run by the plunging cost of solar PV.

Now that the value of storage is being better recognised, the solar tower and molten salt storage sector is hoping that it may finally find a place in global energy markets.

SolarReserve, which built the Crescent Dunes facility, is due to begin construction on the Auror Project near Port Augusta, which will shade Noor as the biggest, and is also building another large facility in South Africa.

Other solar tower and molten salt storage projects are planned for the Middle East, Chile, and SolarReserve is pursuing more projects both in the US and Australia.

The key to the technology’s long term success will be its ability to rapidly reduce costs to keep pace with the falling cost of battery storage, and the interest in pumped hydro.

Noor has a price of $150/MWh, and Sener admits that further reductions are essential. A 700MW facility proposed for Dubai by Acwa Power has an estimated cost of $70/MWh, but it is believed these costs may be disguised by other solar facilities at the proposed energy park.

SolarReserve’s project in Port Augusta will deliver electricity to the South Australia government at an average cost of around $75/MWh, but it will sell capacity into peak demand periods at high prices to ensure it can meet its costs, estimated at more than $110/MWh.

The Noor III solar tower is rated at 150MW, but will deliver 140 MW of net capacity with the remaining 10 MW supplies power for the site itself, the so-called ‘parasitic’ needs that are normal at power plants.

Its 7.5 hours of storage is designed to meet the demand during five peak hours daily during which the electricity price is on average 18 per cent higher.

Sener says that it has started up the solar receiver, pointing the solar field’s 7,400 heliostats towards the receiver located on the top of the 250m tower.

The 115 square metre heliostats have already completed testing, and use a solar tracking technology that – like the receiver technology – is based around Sener’s space technology.

Once the receiver pre-heating tests currently underway are completed, the next step in the commissioning phase will be to circulate the molten salt throughout the receiver to heat them to the daily commercial operation temperature .

This milestone will be accomplished in the coming weeks. The last phase will consist in generating steam using the heat captured from the mentioned molten salts.




14 responses to “World’s biggest solar tower with storage starts commissioning”

  1. Alan S Avatar
    Alan S

    Increasing storage capacity is a straightforward job for a local boilermaker.

    1. Joe Avatar

      Do we still have boilermakers in Australia?

      1. MrMauricio Avatar

        not if they are on union wages!!

        1. rob Avatar

          so so unfare/unfair ! If it wasn’t for unions no one in Aus would get any decent pay/safety or conditions at work……ever heard of the 40 hours week? Give it up with your COALition CRAP

        2. Joe Avatar

          So instead of “union wages”, by which you really mean hard negotiated award rates by the unions, yes. And your option is what, more of the same every week rip offs of workers exposed by journos and the media. Lets see now, 40 hour week, a National minimum wage, sick leave, long service leave, maternity & paternity leave, penalty rates, superannuation guarantee, Medicare…just a few of the many benefits that Aussies have enjoyed thanks to the decades of fight by Unions on behalf of workers and the wider society. Of course we can go back to the Baron and Serf days…the good old days that Big End of Town & The Coalition would love.

      2. rob Avatar

        Yes Joe we do but are a dying breed! So unfortunate

    2. david_fta Avatar

      If there’s more solar PV installed, increased storage capacity would also allow solar thermal to meet more power demand at night-time.

  2. Gregory J. OLSEN Esq Avatar

    Wonderful news. Looking forward to the Port Augusta project’s commissioning. 🙂

  3. Alastair Leith Avatar
    Alastair Leith

    10MW is quite a parasitic load, but 7% compares favourably with CCS (upwards of 50% for capture of >90% CO2 emissions) that’s for sure 🙂

    1. Susan Kraemer Avatar

      Using 10 MW for their onsite needs for power in 150MW is actually a low normal percentage in all thermal power block plants (coal, gas, nuclear, geothermal) when they are not taking grid power for that.

      1. Alastair Leith Avatar
        Alastair Leith

        I’m aware that for thermal fossils that would be considered a low end parasitic load. Grinders and conveyors for coal etc…

        1. Susan Kraemer Avatar

          likewise for solar thermal there’s making the thousands of heliostats move, and a gigantic tank’s-worth of molten salt to be pumped around, up to the receiver and of to the power block, etc…

          1. Alastair Leith Avatar
            Alastair Leith

            This is self-eveidently true, 10MW worth of demand. My comment was more about the comparison of that parasitic load with that of the parasitic load for (largely hypothetical at this stage) CCS, which is massive by comparison.

  4. Joe Avatar

    An impressive looking piece of kit there in the Morocco. South Australia’s Solar Thermal will be quite impressive as well when it is up and running.

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