World's biggest solar thermal plant to be built in Port Augusta


The South Australian Government has awarded a contract for the supply all of its power needs to US solar technology company, SolarReserve, with a 150MW solar thermal power plant to be constructed at Port Augusta.

The $650 million power plant, called Aurora, will be the biggest of its kind in the world. Construction will begin in 2018 and is estimated to be completed in 2020.

According to a government statement, the offer from SolarReserve was the lowest-cost option of the shortlisted bids, with the Government paying no more than $78/MWh.

Aurora will produce synchronous renewable energy that can be dispatched into the grid when needed - even when the sun isn’t shining. This will have the added benefits of improving grid security and stability, and allowing for greater levels of renewables to be integrated into the system.

Under normal operating conditions the plant will have a net capacity of about 135MW, with the ability to increase that output in favourable conditions, such as in the evening.

The Government has entered into a Generation Project Agreement (GPA) with Solar Reserve for the Aurora Solar Energy Project to supply the State’s current load for a period of 20 years.

The GPA contract has been structured to ensure the State gets the benefit of lower spot prices that are expected to arise from the large quantity of renewables entering the South Australian market.

SolarReserve will have a strong incentive to ensure its capacity is running at peak times, which will put downward pressure on peak prices for consumers.

SolarReserve’s concentrated solar power technology uses thousands of mirrors (heliostats) to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a central receiver on top of a tower. The process heats molten salt, pumped to the top of the tower and flowing 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 can generate power at full load for up to eight hours after sunset.

SolarReserve is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and currently has more than $1.8 billion of projects in operation worldwide, with development and long-term power contracts for 482MW of solar projects.