Only the Australian government, the Australian media, and Nature Energy can believe it possible to build a plant at half the cost and produce three times more electricity than what it actually does.
Guest opinion by Albert Parker
The recently defunct Concentrated Solar Power tower (CSP) with thermal energy storage (TES) by molten salt (MS) of Port Augusta, South Australia, was a 150 MW rated power plant, 135 MW power under normal operating conditions, of cost AU$650 million, supposed to deliver 495 GWh of electricity annually fully dispatchable at a cost of AU$ 78/MWh.
The premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill announced on 14 August 2017 that construction would commence in 2018 and was expected to be completed in 2020. It was expected to cost A$650M to build, including a A$110M loan from the Federal Government. SolarReserve has a contract to supply all of the electricity required by the state government’s offices from this power project.
The plant received formal development approval from the state government on 9 January 2018. At that time, finance was not yet all in place, but SolarReserve still anticipated commencing construction in mid-2018 and taking 650 workers two and a half years to build it.
On 5 April 2019, South Australian Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan announced that he had been contacted by SolarReserve who said the project would not be going ahead.
These were the claims in the press and the peer review in heralding the grand scheme:
South Australia planning to build the world’s largest thermal solar plant
World’s biggest solar tower with storage starts commissioning | RenewEconomy
Solar thermal power plant announced for Port Augusta ‘biggest of its kind in the world’ – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Concentrating solar power: Still small but learning fast
Nature Energy volume 2, Article number: 17095 (2017) https://www.nature.com/articles/nenergy201795?proof=trueIn&draft=journal
by Johan Lilliestam, Mercè Labordena, Anthony Patt & Stefan Pfenninger
Empirically observed learning rates for concentrating solar power and their responses to regime change, Nature Energy volume2, Article number: 17094 (2017)
Lilliestam, J. & Pitz-Paal, R.,
Concentrating solar power for less than USD 0.07 per kWh: finally the breakthrough?
Renewable Energy Focus, 26, pp.17-21 (2018).
The last claim was more than a little bit questionable.
The actual costs were larger, due to the large-scale generation certificates (LGCs) valued at around AU$ 80/MWh, a low interest loan of 110 m$AU provided to the developer, and the indirect costs of the larger share of intermittent and unreliable electricity production in a state where peak power prices were already varying from AU$ 100 to AU$ 14,000/ MWh.
More than that, the only other plant of same technology built in the world, incidentally by same developer, Crescent Dunes, Tonopah, NV, USA.
Rated at 110 MW capacity net, had a cost of 975 m$ US 2015 values, for a planned electricity generation of 500,000 MWh/year (capacity factor 51.89%) but actual electricity produced in the best year 127,308 MWh/year (capacity factor 13.21%).
How is possible to believe somebody can be able to cut the cost of the plant to one half, and produce three times more? It is a good question to ask to the Australian Government, as well as the scientific journals that published the claim.
We learn now that no investor decided to risk a cent on this project, that has been consequently axed, as admitted also by the ABC:
Port Augusta solar thermal power plant scrapped after failing to secure finance – ABC News
The renewable energy projects of Australia are always the world biggest; but, they never get real.