Enlarge / A rendering by SolarReserve of what the Aurora site will look like after it’s completed. (credit: SolarReserve)
On Monday the South Australian government awarded a key contract to a company called SolarReserve to build a 150MW solar thermal plant near Port Augusta.

The California-based company uses giant mirrors, called heliostats, to direct sunlight to a thermal tower that heats molten salt, which can be stored in tanks for hours at very high temperatures.

That molten salt can be pushed through a heat exchanger, where it will create steam to generate power, even when the Sun isn’t shining.
South Australia suffered a severe blackout last September during a storm, and its government has been under pressure to come up with solutions.

The state already has a lot of renewable energy—especially wind—on its grid, so storage has been a primary focus.

The government recently bought a 100MW/129MWh lithium battery installation from Tesla after the company promised it could install the batteries in 100 days or less.
SolarReserve has been behind several ambitious projects, including a 110MW/1,100MWh plant in Tonopah, Nevada, and a planned plant in Chile that will have enough molten-salt storage to provide greenhouse gas-free power 24 hours a day.

The Tonopah plant was completed in 2015, but it was recently taken offline for eight months after a leak was discovered in a molten salt tank. Nevertheless, Nevada seems to be interested in building as many as 10 more arrays in Nevada’s Nye County.
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