Solar-Powered Desalination Plant Leads the Way

Article excerpt

A Victorian company recently announced plans for the staged development of Australia's first solar-powered desalination plant near Port Augusta in South Australia. Combining solar energy-based power generation, desalination and commercial salt production, all integrated into a single $370 million industrial complex, the project will significantly reduce the usual greenhouse impacts associated with grid electricity demand for desalination.

Melbourne-based Acquasol Pty Ltd has identified a 50 000-hectare site at Point Paterson, seven kilometres south of Port Augusta.

The solar field will be laid out over a two-square-kilometre area with each solar mirror standing three metres tall. The captured heat will be used to create steam for electricity and desalination, with any excess heat going into thermal storage.

Initially, the desalinated seawater from the Point Paterson plant will be produced mainly for the town of Port Augusta. Eventually, however, it will be capable of supplying water to an area bounded by Port Augusta, Whyalla and Port Pirie--an area known as the 'Iron Triangle'.

This will minimise the area's reliance on the above-ground Whyalla pipeline from Morgan, which brings water from the River Murray 360 kilometres to the east.

The facility's design will also allow it to be expanded to supply power and water to South Australia's mining communities to the north, easing infrastructure concerns about the state's booming resources sector.

When the first stage is complete, the Point Paterson facility will produce 200 megawatts (MW) of electricity--50 MW solar thermal and 150 MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT). It will also produce 5.5 gigalitres of water per year--enough for 34 000 people--2 gigalitres of which will be supplied free to Port Augusta during the first two years of trialling the design.

'Point Paterson will be a world-first in combining large solar power station technologies and water desalination in a standalone, near-zero greenhouse gas emission facility; says Acquasol's Managing Director, Michael Fielden. …