Monday, August 21, 2017


Article Written By: Teresa Marotta


The Australian government has begun creating the biggest solar thermal power plant of its kind in the world which entails a 150-megawatt structure that will be built in Port Augusta in South Australia. It will provide approximately 650 construction jobs and 50 full-time workers will be required to run the plant after it is built. The cost of the plant is $510 million USD (or AU$650 million) and construction is set to begin next year, with 2020 as the aim of completion.

"The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand through the use of thermal energy storage to store heat for running the power turbines," said sustainable energy engineering professor Wasim Saman, from the University of South Australia. "This is a substantially more economical way of storing energy than using batteries."

As solar photovoltaic plants convert sunlight into electricity, they require batteries to store excess power for times when the Sun is not shining. Solar thermal plants use mirrors to concentrate sunlight into a heating system. In the case of the Australian plant, molten salt will be heated up (more economical storage compared to batteries) which is used to boil water, spin a steam turbine, and generate electricity. The plant developers say it can generate power at full load for up to 8 hours after the Sun has gone down.

Renewable energy sources account for more than 40% of the electricity generated in South Australia, and as solar becomes a more reliable provider of energy it will push prices lower. Furthermore, the cost of the new plant below the estimated cost of a new coal-fired power station, thus supporting renewable energy sources.

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