The South Australian state government has approved the construction of a 150 megawatt solar thermal plant. The investment will be $510 million and will be built in Port Augusta. Its completion is scheduled for 2020. It will be the largest facility of its kind in the world, once built.
SolarReserve, based in California, is the company in charge of the construction. The American company is also behind the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Power Plant in Nevada, the world’s first solar thermal power plant capable of supplying public services.
Solar thermal plants are different from traditional photovoltaics that are so popular all over the world. These solar plants, also known as concentrated solar plants (CSP).
How does it work?
The solar thermal power plant does not produce electrical energy directly, it produces heat and then that heat is transformed into electrical energy. Heat is cheap to store. Some tanks with molten salts that have a great caloric power. The heat is used to heat water to produce steam. Steam is used to run steam turbines, thereby generating electricity.
An important advantage of this type of power generation plant is that it can store thermal energy with molten salts for up to eight hours, allowing the use of energy when it is needed. Power can be supplied on demand.
This technology is critical for South Australia, a state plagued by power outages. Australia also has a significant gas shortage and its decades-old coal plants are shutting down, causing potential price hikes and putting energy security at risk.
It seems that the Australian state is betting firmly on renewable energy. The government also recently approved the construction of the world’s largest solar storage plant, in the Riverland region, with the help of Tesla.