Wednesday, 23 August 2017

South Australia stores its sunshine

Molten salt will retain solar energy for eight hours after the sun sets.

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Wai-Shin Chan, Director, Climate Change Strategy

South Australia took coal completely out of its power-generation mix in May 2016 after shutting down 770MW of coal-fired capacity in the previous two years. However, the power outages that followed in subsequent months raised concerns about the state’s reliance on renewables in its power mix and the lack of base-load power.

At that time the main renewables source was wind. But in August 2017, the state signed a 20-year agreement for the construction of a 150MW solar thermal plant that will replace an old coal-fired power station in Port Augusta.

And importantly, the plant will be able to provide electricity up to eight hours after sunset by using molten salt to store energy.

The state aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, with 50 per cent of its energy generated from renewables by 2025.

It will be supplementary to a 100MW grid-scale battery being provided by Tesla. The previous month the California company, famous for its electric cars, won a contract to improve the reliability of South Australia’s grid.

The solar project is scheduled to be completed in 2020 and was chosen because it was the lowest-cost option of shortlisted bids. South Australia is the fourth largest by size of the continent’s six states and fifth by population. Most of its citizens live in the state capital, Adelaide, 190 miles south of Port Augusta.

We think the economics of renewables, and the growing viability of energy storage, will further drive the low-carbon transition. This Australian solar and storage announcement shows the state’s determination to use economically-viable solutions to achieve its climate targets – without reverting to fossil fuels.

South Australia has more ambitious climate targets than the national Australian pledge. The state aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, with 50 per cent of its energy generated from renewables by 2025. We expect to see more deployment of renewable energy by other states and cities to meet local decarbonisation targets and to replace ageing coal-based power capacity.

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