American company Solar Reserve will construct a new $650 million solar thermal power plant.
The South Australian State Government has awarded the contract, which will see Solar Reserve supply the Government and its Agencies with 100% of their required power needs.
The $650 million solar thermal power plant will be built near Port Augusta in northern South Australia and is expected to create 650 construction jobs.
The South Australian government first tendered the project in late 2016 with the goal of enticing a new energy operator into the states fragile energy market.
The solar thermal plant will be known as the Aurora Solar Energy Project and, now that the project has been approved, Solar Reserve is aiming to begin construction in mid-2018 with a completion date set for 2020.
What is a Solar Thermal Power Plant?
Solar thermal power generation systems concentrate sunlight to produce extreme temperatures which are used to generate and collect electricity. All solar thermal power plants use two main components to generate electricity, the first is reflectors (in most cases massive, commercial grade, highly reflective mirrors) which capture and focus sunlight onto a receiver (the item which generates and distributes the heat from the sunlight).
Solar thermal power plants typically also have a thermal energy storage system which collects energy that can be used during the night and on cloudy days.
According to their website, Solar Reserve’s Aurora Solar Thermal Power Plant will use the world’s leading, patented, and most advanced utility-scale solar thermal technology today. Solar Reserve’s molten salt tower receiver leads the industry in terms of efficiency, reliability and cost.
Below is a video from Solar Reserve showing their 110-megawatt solar energy plant in Nevada.
What are the Benefits of the Aurora Solar Thermal Power Plant?
Solar Reserve will supply all of the power required by the South Australian government for the next 20 years.
"This is a massive game-changer for the energy market in this country," South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill told reporters in Adelaide. Mr Weatherill also confirmed that the government would pay no more than $78/MWh under the contract.
Furthermore, Solar Reserve entering the South Australian energy market strengthens the entirety of the fragile market due to extra competition.
In terms of base economics for the project, Solar Reserve was the lowest cost option and it “beat all bids.” Furthermore, the government will not require all 150MW the Aurora solar thermal plant will produce, meaning excess supply will be pushed into the wider grid.
Source: AFR, Wired, Solar Reserve, South Australian Government