WorleyParsons, with the support of some prominent players in the solar power industry, is currently undertaking a study to demonstrate the viability of solar-thermal power in Australia with a view to constructing the largest solar-thermal plant in the world – a 250MW facility; to be locate in either in Western Australia or New South Wales.
The 250MW facility would contain over 600,000 mirrors situated in 288 kilometres of troughs on around 640 hectares of land. A plant of this magnitude could generate enough electricity to power over 300,000 homes.
Concentrated solar-thermal systems generate energy by concentrating solar radiation through the use of parabolic mirrors that focus the sun’s rays onto collector tubes filled with oil. The heated oil generates steam, which drives a steam turbine – much the same way it does in a gas or coal fired power station; but using a free; plentiful and near zero emission source of energy .
Hydraulic drives would move the mirrors to follow the sun throughout the day to maximise the amount of sunlight captured and heat generated. The plant would also include a 1,000 MWHT molten salt thermal storage module.
According to WorleyParsons, the solar radiation falling on a basketball court sized area each year is equivalent to 650 barrels of oil. The company states a solar-thermal power station covering only 50km x 50km would generate sufficient power for all of Australia’s energy needs. Australia has some of the highest concentrations of solar radiation in the world with a potential to generate enough electricity from a square kilometer to power 50,000 households.