World’s biggest coal supplier signs up for 1,000MW of solar thermal power

Shenhua Group, the world’s biggest supplier of coal and the proponent of the controversial coal mine in Australia’s Liverpool Plains, has signed a deal with US company SolarReserve to build 1,000MW of large scale solar tower and storage projects in China.

SolarReserve, which has recently completed its first project, the 110MW Crescent Dunes facility in Nevada (pictured above), and is proposing a similar-sized solar tower and storage facility near Port Augusta in South Australia, says the deal with Shenhua will help a rapid fall in construction costs.

“Our 1,000 megawatt partnership with Shenhua is at a scale that will lead to substantially lower costs while contributing clean and renewable energy to China’s growing power needs,” SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said in a statement.

The deal is just one part of a commitment by China to build 10,000MW of large scale solar thermal projects, which can deliver reliable, dispatchable power 24 hours a day.

The Chinese government owned Shenhua Group will leverage its funding, constructing and operational expertise to build the projects.

“As part of Shenhua’s strategic objective to become a world-class clean energy provider, we are very interested in developing utility-scale concentrating solar power plants, and we look forward to working with SolarReserve in bringing its world-class proprietary technology to China,” said Shenhua CEO Dr Ling Wen.

Shenhua said the unique power dispatch capabilities of these utility scale projects will facilitate the deployment of additional wind and PV generation, and help ensuring the reliability and security of the new ultra-high voltage transmission lines being built to transport power from the country’s north and west regions,

China is now the worlds biggest investor in wind and solar projects and in 2015 became the first country to spend $100 billion on non-hydro renewable energy projects.

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SolarReserve has submitted a proposal for the 110MW solar tower and power plant near Port Augusta to a South Australian government tender for new renewable energy projects. The result of that tender, which has also attracted interest from solar PV and gas generators, will be released in coming months.

The existing coal fired generator in Port Augusta is scheduled to close on Monday, May 9. Shenhua is proposing to build the $1.2 billion Watermark coal mine in NSW, but there are doubts it will go ahead given strong local opposition and a steep fall in imports by Shenhua last year in the face of falling coal demand in China.

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