Just a month after the state government of South Australia announced a deal with Tesla to create the largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the world, it has now revealed plans to build the biggest, single-tower solar thermal power plant on the planet with a proposed output of 150 megawatts.
The Aurora Solar Energy Project will be built and managed by SolarReserve, one of the leaders in large-scale international solar thermal projects and the company behind the Rice Solar Energy Project that was to be built in California, but which has now been put on "indefinite hold" following changes to investment tax credits for renewable energy.
The power plant slated for Port Augusta in South Australia is based on the same design, with solar energy focused by arrays of heliostats onto a central tower where molten salt technology is used to store the energy as heat so the plant can generate electricity day or night.
Aurora will be able to power an estimated 90,000 homes and generate 495 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, which equates to about 5 percent of South Australia's energy needs. The molten salts provide 1,100 MW of energy storage, giving the power station up to eight hours of full load storage, meaning it can operate with a consistent output 24 hours a day.
There are a couple of other giant solar thermal facilities around the world, but none have as large a single-tower power output as this proposed Aurora facility in Australia. The Ivanpah Solar Electric facility in California consists of three towers generating a gross capacity of 392 megawatts, while a recently announced SolarReserve project in Chile is set to feature two towers with a gross capacity of 260 megawatts.
The Aurora Solar Energy Project will kick off construction next year and it is hoped to be ready to produce electricity by 2020.
Take a look at how SolarReserve's molten salt energy process works in the video below.