The state of South Australia has announced approval for the construction of the world’s largest single-tower solar thermal plant to be built near Port Augusta, a 150 megawatt beast that, in the wake of the successful development of the world’s largest Li-ion battery, serves to solidify South Austalia’s role as a world leader in renewable energy.
Announced on Wednesday by South Australia’s Acting Energy Minister, Chris Picton, the State Government has approved SolarReserve’s $650 million (USD$512 million) Aurora solar thermal plant. Set to be developed 30 kilometers north of Port Augusta, Aurora will be made up of a single tower surrounded by more than 12,000 heliostats, and will be able to provide approximately 500,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity production annually. More specifically, Aurora will boast 1,100 MWh of energy storage in its integrated molten salt energy storage system, which is enough to provide 8 hours of full load power after dark.
The $650 million Aurora Solar Energy Project will therefore be able to generate electricity and collect and store energy during the daytime and provide 100% of the electricity needs of all of South Australia’s schools, hospitals, police stations, and government buildings. And though there are larger solar thermal projects, this will be the world’s largest single-tower solar thermal project.
“It’s fantastic that SolarReserve has received development approval to move forward with this world-leading project that will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals, schools and other major government buildings,” said Acting Energy Minister, Chris Picton. “This approval triggers an investment of about $650 million, will create a total of about 700 construction and ongoing jobs in Port Augusta and will add new competition to the South Australian market, putting downward pressure on power prices.
“South Australia is fast becoming a global centre for the development of renewable energy with storage, with a range of other projects set to come online over the next few years.”
Aurora will also serve to create about 4,000 direct and indirect jobs as well as 650 full-time local jobs during construction, and 50 ongoing positions during operation. The project has already had enormous support from Port Augusta locals, as well as the wider South Australian community, and is expected to begin construction sometime this year. SolarReserve, the California-based developer behind the project, will also seek to focus equipment and service purchasing in South Australia, supporting an entirely new industry and develop a new supply chain in the state which will be able to to support other such projects in and around the region.
“This important milestone is a significant step in the development of the Aurora solar thermal power station, which will bring SolarReserve’s world-leading clean power generation technology to South Australia,” added SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith. “The remarkable story of the transition of Port Augusta from coal to renewable energy — which won a competitive tender against fossil fuel — is also a preview of the future of power generation around the world.”
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