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Tech & Science

South Australia to build the world’s largest thermal solar power plant

Techly logo Techly 13/01/2018 Stefan Kostarelis
A giant solar thermal power plant will be built in SA after receiving state government approval. © AAP A giant solar thermal power plant will be built in SA after receiving state government approval.

South Australia has a bit of a reputation for being boring, backward and behind the times.

But recent developments are now positioning the state as a world leader in renewable energy.

First, Mr Musk came to town and delivered his giant battery, and now SA is doubling down on renewables with the announcement of a plan to build the world’s largest thermal solar plant.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that construction of SolarReserve’s $650 million Aurora solar thermal plant will begin this year following the receipt of state development approval.

When the 150-megawatt plant is completed in 2020, it will be able to generate around 500 gigawatts of energy each year, which is enough to power around 90,000 homes.

So how does it work? According to Next Era Energy, there are basically two ways we can use the sun to produce electricity.

The first and most common way is to used photovoltaic cells – or solar panels – to absorb direct sunlight, which is then converted into electricity.

Solar thermal production is a little different. Mirrored surfaces reflect sunlight onto a receptacle that heats up a liquid called therminol. The therminol then heats water to create steam, which is piped into a turbine generator to produce electricity. The process looks something like this:

And here is an artist’s rendering of the plant to be built in SA:

“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 and schools,” South Australian acting energy minister Chris Picton told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“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.”

If only the Federal government was as bullish about renewable energy as SA is.

When Musk announced he was going to help SA by building the world’s largest battery, Treasurer Scott Morrison took the opportunity to dunk on the billionaire.

“30,000 SA households could not get through watching one episode of Australia’s Ninja Warrior with this big battery. So let’s not pretend it is a solution,” Morrison said.

Malcolm Turnbull isn’t much better. Turnbull blamed the SA blackout solely on renewable energy despite experts saying this was not the case. He also believes in the mythical “clean coal”.

You just know you are in trouble when you are siding with Donald Trump on energy and global warming.

With dinosaurs like Morrison and Turnbull preferring fossils, Australia – which is excellently positioned to harness solar power – has little chance of mitigating the very real dangers of climate change.

Thankfully, states’ rights are a thing in Australia.

While the Prime Minister advocates the use of a 19th-century form of energy production SA will continue to pursue renewable energy. Pretty progressive for a “backwards” little place, isn’t it?

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