South Australia to build 150MW solar thermal plant

The world’s largest solar thermal power station is to be built in the town of Port Augusta, South Australia, 300km north of Adelaide.

Solar thermal

(Credit: SolarReserve)

With an installed capacity of 150MW, the Aurora Solar Energy Project will use tracking mirrors, or heliostats, to focus and harness the sun’s rays. Designed and built by US company SolarReserve, the facility will also use integrated molten salt energy storage to provide 1,100MWh of on-demand electricity.

Construction of the project will begin in 2018, with the plant due to be up and running by 2020. Around 650 jobs will be directly created during the build, while 50 full-time positions will be supported once the power station is operational. The announcement of the Generation Project Agreement (GPA) between SolarReserve and the South Australian government comes just a month after the state signed a deal with Tesla for the world’s largest lithium-ion storage project.

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“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,” said South Australia’s Premier Jay Weatherill.

SolarReserve’s technology uses heated molten salt to create steam and power a turbine, just like electricity generation in a fossil fuel or nuclear power station. The molten salt is used for both energy collection and storage, helping to overcome the intermittency problem and provide base-load power. According to the company, it has delivered a pipeline of 13 gigawatts of power through its projects since 2008.

“SolarReserve’s energy storage technology is an excellent fit for the South Australian electricity system”, said SolarReserve’s CEO Kevin Smith. “Aurora will provide much needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility.”

As part of the project, the company says it will also be establishing a research partnership with South Australian universities to advance solar thermal research and education in the state.