South Australian government to be powered by solar thermal

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The Government of South Australia announced today that the world's largest solar thermal plant will be built in Port Augusta.

Gary Rowbottom, Chairperson of Repower Port Augusta, and also former coal-fired power station worker said: "Building solar thermal with storage in Port Augusta will create new jobs, on-demand solar power, reduce emissions and put downward pressure on power bills".

As part of this, Aurora Solar Energy has secured a 20-year contract to provide South Australia with solar energy, at $78 per megawatt-hour a price reportedly lower than any competing company.

The Aurora Solar Energy Project located in Port Augusta, about 300km north of Adelaide, will incorporate eight hours of storage or 1,100MWh, allowing it to operate like a conventional coal or gas power station.

The agreement was similar to a Power Purchase Agreement for renewable energy, except that emphasis is placed on the available capacity of the facility during peak demand periods rather than just the energy that can be delivered in kilowatt-hours.

Unlike solar photovoltaic plants which convert sunlight directly into electricity, solar thermal plants convert sunlight first to heat.

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South Australia leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and rooftop solar with renewable sources accounting for more than 40% of the electricity generated in the state.

Wasim Saman, professor of sustainable energy engineering at the University of South Australia, said the technology is a more economical energy storage solution than using batteries.

The design is inspired by a solar thermal plant already running in the US state of Nevada.

650 full time construction jobs are expected for a duration of 30 months.

Aurora will provide 100% of the Australian state's power needs, with the government set to pay an expected levelized price of A$75/MWh, and no more than A$78/MWh.

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