The South Australian government announced yesterday that a 150MW solar thermal power plant will be built in Port Augusta. To be constructed by US-based operator SolarReserve, the plant will be the largest of its kind in the world.

The Aurora Solar Energy Project will use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight, heating molten salt to produce steam which will in turn operate a turbine. Under normal operating conditions, the $650-million plant will have a capacity of approximately 135MW, with the ability to increase this output in favourable conditions – such as during the evening.

The plant will be able to store eight hours’ worth of energy, meaning it will be able to operate even when the sun isn’t out. As a result, Aurora will be entirely emissions-free and require no natural gas or oil back up.

The announcement is bad news for the coal-fired economy, with the move towards solar thermal representing a decisive victory over dirty power.

“The Port Augusta story is a [prime] example of the transition of the South Australian economy, with the closure of a dirty coal-fired power station, and now the commissioning of this world-leading renewable energy project,” South Australian premier, Jay Weatherill, told News Corp.

Aurora will be supported by a $110-million concessional equity from the federal government.  

The news of this project follows Tesla’s announcement in July that they will build the world’s largest lithium storage facility at a wind farm in South Australia.

Construction of the Aurora project will commence in 2018, with completion expected in 2020.