Aurora solar energy project is a 150MW solar thermal power plant being developed near Port Augusta in South Australia.
SolarReserve, a renewable energy company, is developing the project with an estimated investment of $650m under a contract from the South Australian Government.
The developer secured approval from the Australian Government in January 2018. Construction of the project is scheduled for completion in 2020.
The Aurora solar power plant will produce 500GWh of electricity a year and have a lifespan of approximately 40 years without any degradation. It is expected to meet 5% of South Australia’s power demand.
Aurora power plant location
The Aurora power plant is to be located on a vast pastoral area adjacent to the Stuart highway, approximately 30km north of the town of Port Augusta.
Proximity to the highway makes it highly accessible during construction and operation.
Aurora solar power plant make-up
The Aurora plant will consist of more than 12,000 automatic, dual-axis tracking heliostats measuring 96m² in size each. The heliostats will cover an area of 1.2 million square metres (120ha) and will be equipped with a control unit and software to enable precise tracking of the sun.
The plant will also include a 240m-tall tower with a receiver located on top, a cold and hot salt storage tank as well as a steam turbine and generator. The heliostats will be arranged around the tower to increase the solar harvest.
Aurora will also be equipped with a dry cooling system, which will reduce the water usage and save one million litres of water annually.
Power generation at Aurora
The new plant will use concentrating solar power technology (CSP) to produce electricity. The heliostats will move according to the position of the sun and concentrate the sunlight on to the receiver, which will act as a heat exchanger and create extremely high temperatures.
Liquid salt from the cold storage tank will be pumped into the receiver where it will be heated to 566°C. The salt will then flow into the hot salt tank and onto the steam generator to produce steam. This will then drive the steam turbine to generate electricity.
The plant will be connected to a 275kV transmission network located nearby. Aurora will be able to store 1,100MWh of energy for up to eight hours.
Molten salt technology
The Aurora solar power plant will use molten salt as a heat transfer medium as it retains heat and allows for uninterruptable electricity generation. Salt will be circulated through the receiver during the day and stored in tanks during the night, enabling 24/7 operation of the plant.
The molten salt does not need to be replaced for the entire lifespan of the plant as it can be recirculated and reused with no expected loss. The molten salt storage technology is also cost-effective, reliable and efficient.
The South Australian Federal Government is providing an equity loan of up to $110m for the project.
Constrictors involved in Aurora solar energy plant
SolarReserve signed a generation project agreement (GPA) with the South Australian Government in August 2017. The government will pay $78 per MWh to the company.
A heritage agreement was signed between SolarReserve and Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation in November 2017 for the power plant’s development and construction.
SolarReserve entered a long-term agreement with OZ Minerals in March 2018 to build a new high-voltage electricity transmission line to support the Aurora power project as well as OZ Mineral’s Prominent Hill mine and Carrapateena project. The 270km-long transmission line will be operational by mid-2020.
In September 2018, SolarReserve signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with South Australia-based Heliostat, to develop plans for the manufacture and assembly of approximately 12,800 SR96 heliostat assemblies and its components.
Aurora solar project benefits
Aurora solar project will generate sufficient electricity for 90,000 homes and will offset 200,000t of carbon dioxide emissions a year. The project will also support federal and state renewable energy targets.
The power plant is expected to create 4,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs during the construction phase as well as 50 long-term and permanent jobs during the operational phase.
The project will also source 60% of the equipment and services from South Australia, contributing to the industrial and economic growth of the region.