US solar developer SolarReserve has unveiled plans for what would be the world’s biggest solar development, a 2,000MW, $US5 billion project featuring its solar tower and molten salt storage technology.
The ambitious project was revealed in the Las Vegas News, the city that is now at least partly powered by the company’s first large scale solar tower and storage plant, the 110MW Crescent Dunes project at Tonopah.
SolarReserve, which wants to build a similar 100MW solar plant in South Australia, says it is now looking at replicating this projects on a massive scale, with a project including 10 such arrays totalling between 1,500MW and 2,000MW.
CEO Kevin Smith told the paper that the “Sandstone” project would be around the same size as a nuclear power plant and would be far bigger than any of the world’s existing solar facilities.
Smith expects to be able to announce a roughly 16,000-acre site for the new project within the next six to nine months, the paper said. Smith said company officials have looked at about a dozen locations over the past year and narrowed the list down to two, both on federal land in Nye County Nevada.
Construction probably won’t start for another two or three years, Smith said, and would likely rely on significant power purchase agreements, and the construction of new transmission lines.
The Crescent Dunes plant uses 10,000 mirrored heliostats to focus sunlight on a 200m tall central tower, heating the molten salt inside to more than 600°C, and then storing that heat for use whenever the market operator needs it.
It supplies Las Vegas with electricity between the hours of midday and midnight, but can provide power 24/7 or be used as a peaking plant.
Smith told the Las Vegas paper that the new project will be paid for with commercial financing, though he said his company will explore federal loan programs.
Most of the power from the Sandstone project will likely be “exported to the California market,” which has high renewable energy targets for 2030 and lots of solar, but little solar with storage.
“We’ve certainly identified potential buyers,” Smith said.
SolarReserve’s plans for South Australia have been set back since the state government indicated it wanted to prioritise gas plants. It is holding a tender for “low carbon” sources, but is offering only a 10 year contract and has reclassified one 17 year old plant as a “new entrant” to try and attract it to the tender.
In the Las Vegas News article, Smith said allegations of major issues with bird deaths from solar tower plants were overblown, at least at Crescent Dunes, where he said the full-time biologists on site have logged around 60 bird deaths over the past year.
“That’s probably less than the office building we work out of in Santa Monica (where the company is headquartered),” he said.
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.