Big solar conference: What does 2GW of solar thermal look like?

Big solar conference: What does 2GW of solar thermal look like?

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As more wind and solar is introduced into the grid, more storage will be needed. SolarReserve has plans for a facility of up to 2GW in Nevada.

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US company SolarReserve is currently the world leader in large scale solar tower and molten salt storage plants, and is still hopeful of having the opportunity of building the first in Australia.

Australian-based development officer Daniel Thompson will be speaking at next week’s Large Scale Solar conference co-hosted by RenewEconomy and Informa.

Two of the images he will be sharing are featured here.


The first is the so-called “duck-curve” being experienced in California, and predicted for the next few years, as more solar is integrated into the grid, part of the state’s 50 per cent “new renewables” target for 2030.

The graph shows the hollowing out of demand during the day, something that has also been predicted in South Australia, Western Australia and even Tasmania, as a result of the growing push for rooftop solar by homes and businesses.

This, of course, lifts the case for storage. While there has been a lot of focus on battery storage and pumped hydro in recent weeks, they are not the only options.

SolarReserve is proposing to build a 110MW solar tower and storage plant in Port Augusta, and has lodged an application with the South Australian government tender.

It has said that if solar towers get a foothold in the Australian market, there might be a case for up to six such facilities in South Australia alone.

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 4.39.23 PM

In the US, it is going even further – unveiling plans for a huge 1.5GW to 2GW solar tower and storage plant for California, that would include at least 10 such arrays. This is what it may look like if the Sandstone project in Nevada ever goes ahead.

Daniel Thompson will be speaking at the Large Scale solar conference in Sydney on Monday. Further details can be found here.



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  1. solarguy 4 years ago

    Looks bloody beautiful doesn’t it. Our future revealed.

  2. howardpatr 4 years ago

    Beyond the imagination of anthropogenic climate deniers like Joyce, Frydenberg, Canavan and so many others in the LNP.

    No doubt there are plenty of deniers in the ALP but they just keep quiet, for now.

    • solarguy 4 years ago

      I’m ALP and I’m not a denier!

      • Rod 4 years ago

        Regardless gents, this should never be about blue vs reds.
        Civilised countries like Scotland and most of the Northern Europeans take a bipartisan approach and are just getting on with it successfully.
        As Alan Pears pointed out, there is one man in Australia to blame for making it political.

  3. Charles 4 years ago

    “And even Tasmania!” Sigh.. I guess I should be glad we were even mentioned 😛

  4. solarguy 4 years ago

    Giles, I hope you can give us a good run down after the conference!

  5. Dennis Abbott.. 4 years ago

    Realising the Potential of Concentrating Solar Power. ITP 2012 Paper, suggests that there is 15 GW of low hanging fruit (solar sites in close proximity to transmission) within Australia. Solar thermal is a sensible and flexible alternative to coal and gas.
    Regarding bird deaths maybe its time to ban ; cars, fossil fuel generators, buildings, wind turbines and cats.

    • Rod 4 years ago

      “Regarding bird deaths maybe its time to ban ; cars, fossil fuel generators, buildings, wind turbines and cats.”
      No argument from me but we have seen the anti RE lobby latch on to any excuse to delay progress.

      • Dennis Abbott.. 4 years ago

        Construction of the Ivanpah project in California was delayed due to a turtle that burrows into the desert. In Australia there is so much degraded cattle land that there is no need to build in delicate dessert environments. One medium sized cattle station would be enough area to supply all of our electrical needs.
        CST ticks so many boxes regarding power generation: clean, storage, flexible, air cooled, scale-able, FCAS, jobs in manufacturing, jobs for the bush whilst utilizing nature’s nuclear fusion reactor (our sun)
        The negatives; political will (low), cost (high) – however, the more you build the cheaper it gets. Public awareness (low) ,bird deaths from tower systems

        • Rod 4 years ago

          You forgot an awesome vision of the future

          • Dennis Abbott.. 4 years ago

            An awesome and logical vision of the future would be. Renewable energy (mainly solar thermal) providing more energy than needed domestically, excess electricity then used to produce Hydrogen which is shipped or piped out to supply the power stations of Asia, replacing LNG.
            Electricity from our sun fuel from water.
            Australia a clean energy superpower.

          • 小杜 (xiao du) 4 years ago

            Power stations of Asia are going to be Hydro, Solar, and Wind.
            Don’t think anyone wants Hydrogen; Too costly to store and use.

          • Dennis Abbott.. 4 years ago

            I hope future Asian power stations, are renewable. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toyota are investigating the potential of Hydrogen.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            Hydrogen is not much more costly to store and use than, say, methane. It’s just expensive to *produce*, unless you’re producing it from methane (or oil or coal, but natural gas is preferred). Actually if you have a cheap source of hydrogen, synthetic methane can be manufactured from it quite cheaply and can be treated exactly like fossil natural gas.

            Let’s talk about exporting hydrogen once we have a huge domestic excess of non-fossil electric generation. It’s achievable. But I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time we get there, the rest of the world has lost interest in importing energy from elsewhere.

          • 小杜 (xiao du) 4 years ago

            Say what?

            Hydrogen is far more costly to store than pretty much any other gas.
            Producing it is cheap (excess electric can split water for hydrogen easily), _storing_ it is another matter.

            Hydrogen has a high energy content by weight, but not volume, which is an issue for storage. In order to store sufficient quantities of hydrogen gas, it’s compressed and stored at high pressures as a liquid at -423c.
            It isn’t generally stored as a gas as the volumes are #1 too large, #2 it escapes anything, #3 it makes most metals brittle #4 its extremely flammable.

            Hydrogen storage systems are also quite complex with limited lifetime cycles.

            Methane on the other hand can be stored as a gas relatively easily, and has a much higher energy density per volume.

            Would make far more sense to produce Methane than Hydrogen with excess electricity. Looks like thats being done already – see the Wiki page on the Sabatier process [ ]

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            I agree with all you say except for the relative costs. It is cheap to store hydrogen, but expensive to produce it except from fossil fuels.

            It can be worthwhile to produce hydrogen from electricity, but only if that electricity is inexpensive and emissions-free, and not if that electricity could be more effectively used to reduce fossil fuel consumption for electricity generation.

            Stationary storage of hydrogen in large quantities is done as a matter of course in the chemical industry, including fertiliser and petroleum refining industries. It is more expensive, but not “far more” expensive than storing methane, ammonia or other gases.

            High energy density storage of hydrogen for mobility applications is a little more challenging, and possibly entirely unnecessary in view of the plummeting cost of batteries for battery-electric vehicles, but it has been done at reasonable cost.

            The vast majority of hydrogen produced today is made *from* methane or coal, and steam, at very low cost. Relatively small amounts are made by electrolysis. The cost of doing so is not terribly high, but remember you’re *consuming* electricity to do so, and electricity itself is (a) today mostly derived from fossil fuels, and (b) more useful and versatile in its own right than hydrogen fuel itself.

            You’re right that some hydrogen production by electrolysis is being done already. Sometimes it’s as a byproduct of other processes for which electrolysis is required, for instance separation of chlorine from salt.

            There’s exactly one case of someone doing exactly what’s suggested above: Carbon Recycling International, in Iceland. Iceland has a 100%-renewable electricity supply dominated by hydroelectricity but with a lot of geothermal energy too, and that clean electricity is quite cheap. CRI manufactures liquid methanol fuel from electrolytic hydrogen and igneous carbon dioxide. This fuel is exported to continental Europe for blending into petroleum-based vehicle fuel. The scale is tiny, but it’s a reality.


            Other cases of electrolytic hydrogen production are various pilot-scale energy storage experiments with a view to future deep integration of intermittent renewables into the electricity system, for instance the various power-to-gas schemes in Germany and neighbouring countries. While some go directly to hydrogen (which may be injected directly into the natural gas supply, but only up to a few percent admixture), others use the full Sabatier reaction to produce methane.



            These experiments bode very well for future energy storage at large scale, but please do not forget that they are taking place in a country which still has the world’s largest operating coal mine, and which burns lignite (brown coal) around the clock to produce a very large fraction of its electricity supply.

            So please let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Unless you are in a largely emissions-free electricity system like that of Iceland or Norway, it is more polluting to generate hydrogen from electricity than to use the electricity to offset fossil fuel consumption while manufacturing hydrogen directly from fossil fuels. Until the major users of industrial hydrogen, the petroleum and fertiliser industries, prefer to use electrolysis over methane to generate hydrogen, you simply can’t regard electrolysis as cheap.

            Iceland can do this. In very small quantities, it is exporting its clean renewable energy as chemical fuel. But let’s decarbonise the electricity supply before embarking on schemes to export synthetic electrolytic fuel from a country like Australia which currently burns coal for almost 80% of its electricity.

  6. Ferdinand Gassauer 4 years ago

    new technologies are on the door step

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