Energy

South Australia to build world's largest single-tower solar thermal power plant

South Australia to build world...
South Australia is set to build the largest single-tower solar thermal power station in the world
South Australia is set to build the largest single-tower solar thermal power station in the world
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The Aurora Solar Energy Project will build a 150-megawatt solar thermal power station in South Australia
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The Aurora Solar Energy Project will build a 150-megawatt solar thermal power station in South Australia
The power station uses mirrors to heat a molten salt mass allowing for consistent power generation across day and night
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The power station uses mirrors to heat a molten salt mass allowing for consistent power generation across day and night
The Aurora Solar Energy Project is the largest of its kind in the world
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The Aurora Solar Energy Project is the largest of its kind in the world
The proposed location for the power station in South Australia
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The proposed location for the power station in South Australia
An artist rendering of the proposed SolarReserve, dual-tower project in Chile
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An artist rendering of the proposed SolarReserve, dual-tower project in Chile
An operational solar thermal station in Nevada
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An operational solar thermal station in Nevada
South Australia is set to build the largest single-tower solar thermal power station in the world
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South Australia is set to build the largest single-tower solar thermal power station in the world

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.

The Aurora Solar Energy Project will build a 150-megawatt solar thermal power station in South Australia
The Aurora Solar Energy Project will build a 150-megawatt solar thermal power station in South Australia

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.

An operational solar thermal station in Nevada
An operational solar thermal station in Nevada

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.

Source: SolarReserve

SolarReserve - Concentrated Solar Power Technology Animation

9 comments
chase
Hmmm, I'm wondering on possibility of alternative uses for this large of an array since it can be focused on a central point. Interstellar Communication... Destruction of meteors...? Space junk clean up...?
McDesign
I wonder about retrofitting / augmenting existing coal plants with this; keeping the existing steam cycle and adding a new heat exchanger. Four square miles for heliostats might be available around existing plants
Daishi
Lazard publishes a "Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis" every year. The last report (v 10.0) from Dec 2016 puts the unsubsidized thin film utility scale at $51/MWh and solar tower with storage at $150/MWh. I get that it's useful to use storage to deliver power with an offset later into peak usage hours but at almost 3x the cost of grid solar panels is it still worth doing? It's not a fully apples to apples comparison because one is power and the other is power + storage but it seems like an opportunity to pair grid solar with a another storage method like pumped hydro or hydrogen storage if we don't want to use battery chemistry. Lithium Ion batteries may be a bit overkill for the problem of grid storage anyway. I'm a fan of more simple methods like pushing weights up hill in the day with solar power and using it to drive turbines at night on the way down. It may not be super efficient but there is no chemistry involved, you have excess power in the day to use for the task and you can defer the power for any amount of time.
toddzrx
Well that's unfortunate, especially when you consider how much coal Australia is sitting on. They're about to waste a bundle of money on a power plant that will provide unreliable electricity. Too bad.
Gregg Eshelman
How many birds per day will it flash fry?
fb36
"How many birds per day will it flash fry?" Correct. There are more nature friendly ways for a solar power plant.
WolfeSA
Hooray, another example of feasible solar power generation. As soon as the storage tech is improved nuclear and coal are toast. Its just a matter of time, the maintenance costs of solar male it a no-brainer. Even if nuclear is still being foisted on developing countries, money talks, and full lifecycle costs for solar are incredibly lower. Now we're cooking with sun!
Oren.E
toddzrx, Australia can keep sitting on coal. You prefer to burn that coal as a present for your children? It's a lot of energy, you right. Energy that is kept for millions of years in the form of chemical bonds that you want now to release as thermal energy plus intensifying the greenhouse effect. Why not?
Oren.E
Gregg Eshelman and fb36, no bird will not get close enough. You can see even from the picture that the top of the tower shines back to all directions. That alone will keep them to get distance, especially from the top. Anywhere else above the mirrors there's no problem since the light is not concentrated there.