The state government of South Australia has approved the construction of a 150 megawatt solar thermal power plant. The investment will be $ 510 million and will be built in Port Augusta. Its completion is scheduled for 2020. It will be the largest facility of its kind in the world, once built.

SolarReserve, based in California, is the company in charge of the construction. The American company is also behind the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes solar power plant in Nevada, the world’s first solar thermal power plant capable of providing public services.

Solar thermal power plants are different from the traditional photovoltaics which are so popular around the world. These solar power plants, also called concentrating solar power plants (CSP).

How it works?

Solar thermal does not directly produce electrical energy, it produces heat and then this heat is transformed into electrical energy. Heat is inexpensive to store. Some tanks with molten salts which have a great caloric value. Heat is used to heat water to produce steam. Steam is used to run steam turbines, thereby generating electricity.

An important advantage of this type of power plant is that it can store thermal energy with molten salts for up to eight hours, allowing the energy to be used when needed. Power can be supplied on request.

This technology is essential for South Australia, a state plagued by power outages. Australia is also experiencing a severe gas shortage and its decades-old coal-fired power stations are shutting down, leading to potential price hikes and endangering energy security.

It seems that the Australian state is betting firmly on renewable energies. The government also recently approved the construction of the world’s largest solar storage plant in the Riverland region with assistance from Tesla.