Australia, Renewables, Solar, Storage

Solar and salt: Another option for Australia’s green future

Keith Lovegrove, the head of the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association, has highlighted the potential of solar thermal technology to provide Australia with a fresh avenue for renewable energy.

In a recent ABC report, Lovegrove drew inspiration from Noor Energy, the world’s largest solar thermal power plant located in Dubai.

“This plant could power 450,000 Australian homes 24/7, 365 days a year, underscoring its capacity to revolutionise Australia’s clean energy landscape,” Lovegrove said.

With a monumental solar thermal tower, Noor Energy utilises heliostats to concentrate the sun’s rays, generating temperatures reaching up to 565℃.

The process involves melting industrial salt, storing the energy, and subsequently using it to produce steam for electricity generation through a turbine.

Lovegrove emphasised a key feature of the plant — its advanced energy storage capabilities: the four solar thermal plants collectively cover an area equivalent to 6200 football fields, providing 11 to 15 hours of energy storage, which enables them to operate at full power even after sunset, addressing the global demand for dispatchable renewables.

Despite more than 30 years of global use, Australia has been slow to adopt solar thermal technology, citing challenges such as technical difficulties, labor shortages, and high costs.

Highlighting the significance of the project, Lovegrove pointed out its record-low solar thermal price and the absence of ongoing fuel costs in comparison to traditional power sources.

“Remember, when you build a plant like this, there’s no fuel costs,” Lovegrove said.

“If you want to compare this to, say, a coal plant of the same size, well, the coal plant has a capital cost plus an ongoing fuel cost, not to mention the impact of the CO2.”

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