Australia to build world’s largest single-tower solar thermal power plant

South Australia Governor Jay Weatherill on August 14 announced plans to build the biggest, single-tower solar thermal power plant with a proposed output of 150 megawatts.

South Australia Governor Jay Weatherill on August 14 announced plans to build the biggest, single-tower solar thermal power plant on the planet with a proposed output of 150 megawatts.

Australia to build world’s largest single-tower solar thermal power plant

South Australia is set to build the largest single-tower solar thermal power station in the world (Credit: SolarReserve)

The Aurora Solar Energy Project will be built and managed by SolarReserve, one of the leaders in large-scale international solar thermal projects and the company behind the Rice Solar Energy Project that was to be built in California, but which has now been put on "indefinite hold" following changes to investment tax credits for renewable energy.

The power plant slated for Port Augusta in South Australia is based on the same design, with solar energy focused by arrays of heliostats onto a central tower where molten salt technology is used to store the energy as heat so the plant can generate electricity day or night.

Australia to build world’s largest single-tower solar thermal power plant

An operational solar thermal station in Nevada(Credit: SolarReserve)

Aurora will be able to power an estimated 90,000 homes and generate 495 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, which equates to about 5 percent of South Australia's energy needs. The molten salts provide 1,100 MW of energy storage, giving the power station up to eight hours of full load storage, meaning it can operate with a consistent output 24 hours a day.

There are a couple of other giant solar thermal facilities around the world, but none have as large a single-tower power output as this proposed Aurora facility in Australia. The Ivanpah Solar Electric facility in California consists of three towers generating a gross capacity of 392 megawatts, while a recently announced SolarReserve project in Chile is set to feature two towers with a gross capacity of 260 megawatts.

Australia to build world’s largest single-tower solar thermal power plant

The power station uses mirrors to heat a molten salt mass allowing for consistent power generation across day and night(Credit: SolarReserve)

The Aurora Solar Energy Project will kick off construction next year and it is hoped to be ready to produce electricity by 2020.

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