The Port Augusta solar thermal power plant will be the largest project of its kind in the world. Image: SolarReserve.
BY ELIZABETH FABRI
US renewable energy developer SolarReserve will build a $650 million solar thermal power plant in South Australia to supply all of the State Government’s power needs.
Scheduled to begin construction next year and open in 2020, the 150 megawatt (MW) Aurora project, will be built in the former coal town of Port Augusta to provide greater stability and energy security for the grid and put downward pressure on prices.
On 14 August, SolarReserve entered a long-term Generation Project Agreement with the South Australian Government to supply the State’s current load for 20 years at a low price of $78/MWh.
As part of the deal, SunReserve would also be able to sell remaining power from the project, since the State’s peak load was 125MW.
The deal was also banking on a $110 million concessional equity loan negotiated by independent South Australia senator Nick Xenophon earlier in the year in return for the Federal Government’s company tax cuts.
SolarReserve chief executive Kevin Smith said the energy storage technology was “an excellent fit” for the State electricity system, and would deliver up to 650 jobs during construction, and 50 ongoing positions.
“SolarReserve looks forward to continuing to work with the South Australian Government and stakeholders, including the Port Augusta community where the project is located, to support Federal and State renewable energy targets, stimulate long-term economic development, and create new jobs and businesses,” Mr Smith said.
South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said the Aurora project would enhance the State’s reputation as a leader in clean, cheap renewable energy.
“The Port Augusta story is a stark example of the transition of the South Australian economy, with the closure of a dirty coal fired power station, and now the commissioning of this world leading renewable energy project,” Mr Weatherill said.
“This is a terrific result for the people of Port Augusta who have campaigned hard to deliver this outcome for their community.”
Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said the price the government would pay for the electricity was a “remarkable achievement” as it was exceptionally low for a technology still fairly new in Australia.
“It is great to see the South Australian Government investing in the future with this landmark clean energy project,” Mr Thornton said.
How it works:
Aurora will utilise SolarReserve’s ThermaVault advanced solar thermal technology with integrated molten salt energy storage to deliver renewable energy that is dispatchable 24/7.
Thousands of mirrors (heliostats) reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a central receiver at the top of a 227 metre tower.
The process then heats molten salt which is pumped to the top of the tower and flows through the receiver, to 565 degrees Celsius. The molten salt provides a stored heat source which is used to generate steam to drive a single turbine that generates electricity.
The facility is capable of generating power at full load for up to eight hours after sunset.