World’s biggest solar thermal power plant to be built in Australia

The Aurora Solar Energy Project will have a 150 megawatt capacity and will be the biggest in the world
solar australia Australia has been turning its sunny climate into pure power for years now. This new plant will be the largest of its kind on Earth. (© Chris Dorney | Dreamstime)

As renewable energy becomes more and more powerful, we are seeing lots of countries turn to solar, wind, and hydro. Even China, the world's largest producer of emissions, is taking clean, sustainable energy seriously. The Asian country has set goals for itself that could quickly turn it from polluter to promoter of green power.

Now Australia has just made a big energy announcement of their own, and we're pretty excited about it.

The state of South Australia signed a deal to build the planet's biggest solar thermal power plant. Work will begin on the Aurora Solar Energy Project in Port Augusta, South Australia next year, and the plant will be finished by 2020.

Sunny news

Crescent Dunes Solar December 2014

Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Las Vegas. (Wikimedia Commons)

It should come as no surprise that Australia is pretty big into solar energy. Around 70% of Australia is desert, and the Sun bakes the country all year round. Hey, if you've got it, use it, right?

The plant is being designed by the same company that built the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a power plant in another sunny, desert location, Las Vegas. That's it in the picture above. Neat, right?

This will be one powerful power plant. The outputs of major plants are measured in megawatts. For example, the capacity of Crescent Dunes is 110 megawatts. But Aurora is predicted to have a capacity of 150 megawatts. In fact, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says that the plant will provide 100% of the state government's energy needs. Awesome!

A salty solution

Embed from Getty Images

A view of the central tower at Torresol Energy in Spain. (Getty Embed)

One of the things that makes the Aurora so appealing will be its ability to keep providing full power long after the Sun sets. The way that it does this might surprise you. At the centre of the plant's many heliostats (basically high-tech mirrors), is a tower filled with molten salt. We don't mean salty water, either. We mean salt in a permanent liquid state. This kind of liquid is excellent for storing thermal energy, or heat.

The heliostats direct and concentrate the power of the Sun on the tower, which heats up the molten salt. This trapped heat energy is then used to boil water to create steam. The steam drives, or spins, turbines and've got solar power!

South Australia is already very into renewable energy, with about 40 percent of its power coming from green sources. The completion of Aurora will boost that percentage even more. That's some super solar news!

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