by Megan Treacy: In the world of solar thermal energy the theme lately has been go big or go home…
New projects for solar thermal towers are increasing in size instead of including multiple towers. A project planned for super sunny South Australia will be the world’s largest single solar thermal tower power plant when it’s completed in 2020.
The Aurora Solar Energy Project, being built by SolarReserve, will have a capacity of 150 MW. The array of heliostats will focus sunlight on the tower where molten salt technology will store the energy as heat to be used to produce electricity 24 hours a day via a steam-driven turbine.
The power plant will generate an estimated 495 gigawatt hours of electricity per year which will power about 90,000 households. That will cover about 5 percent of South Australia’s total electricity needs.
The molten salt technology can store 1,100 MW of energy which is about eight hours of maximum output storage. That gives the power plant the ability to continually produce electricity even through the night.
Israel is also building a huge solar thermal tower as part of its Ashalim energy project. That project will combine solar thermal energy, solar photovoltaic energy and energy storage for a combined capacity of 310 MW.
The largest solar thermal installation in the world is currently Ivanpah in California which features three towers and has a capacity of 392 MW.