Solar thermal plant in desert

NEW SOLAR Thermal to boost competition and create jobs

PORT Augusta will be home to a new $650 million solar thermal power plant that supplies all of the State Government’s power needs.

American company SolarReserve has been awarded the contract to supply the Government’s power needs, with the project set to boost market competition and put downward pressure on power prices.

A key part of the State Government’s Energy Plan, the 150MW solar thermal power plant at regional Port Augusta, called Aurora, will be the biggest of its kind in the world and create 650 local jobs during construction and 50 ongoing positions.

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.

The plant, to be built about 30km north of the town on state-owned land, will be able to store between eight and 10 hours of energy so it can operate when the sun is not shining.

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said the plant would feature about 12,000 “billboard-sized” mirrors, measuring 100sqm, arranged in a circle over an area of about 600ha.

The mirrors will focus light and heat at the top of a 227m tower — to be the tallest of its kind in the world. The mirrors and tower will be assembled on-site, although some parts may be imported.

Mr Smith said in addition to the 700 on-site jobs, the project could stimulate up to 4000 indirect jobs around the state.

Premier Jay Weatherill said the plant would be the largest of its kind in the world would be able to supply “all of the Government’s power needs”.

The Government will take the majority of power generated and any remaining will be fed into the Australian state-wide grid.

Mr Weatherill said this would increase market competition and could lead to lower power prices.

“We are supporting this nation-leading renewable energy project because it will deliver more competition into our energy market and put downward pressure on power prices for households and businesses.

The Port Augusta story is a stark example of the transition of the South Australian economy, with the closure of a dirty coal fired power station, and now the commissioning of this world leading renewable energy project.

The Aurora Solar Energy Project will enhance South Australia’s reputation as a leader in clean, cheap renewable energy.”

The project will also deliver about 700 jobs, with requirements for local workers, in the Port Augusta region and will support additional jobs in the long term.

This is a terrific result for the people of Port Augusta who have campaigned hard to deliver this outcome for their community.”

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis echoed the Premier’s sentiments, commenting, “The Aurora Solar Energy Project will create new, advanced employment opportunities in regional South Australia. We are using our energy plan to drive investment and jobs in this growing sector.

Along with our grid-scale battery in Jamestown, this solar thermal facility firmly entrenches South Australia as a world leader in the storage of renewable energy.

This facility, in addition to our State-owned power plant and the world’s largest lithium ion battery (Telsa in partnership with French energy utility Neoen), will help to make our energy grid more secure.”

Construction of the $650 million facility will begin in 2018 and is estimated to be completed in 2020. For more information about the South Australia Energy Plan, you can download the policy here.