Solar Thermal Retrofitted to Coal Power in NSW, Australia
New South Wales, Australia is the site of a pilot project where solar thermal technology reduces the use of fossil fuels. Coal and solar generate electricity using the same turbines.
Coal power plants can utilize solar to produce 15%-60% of the electricity. A higher quantity is possible, but requires significantly more modifications to be made to the coal boilers.
Mirrors, called Fresnal reflectors capture the sun’s rays and heat water in the tube above. Steam lines deliver the solar energy to the adjacent coal power plant where existing coal turbines are used to produce an electric current.
The ideal situation for retrofitting a coal power plant with solar includes:
* A large amount of land adjacent to the plant is neededfor solar collectors.
* High quantities of solar radiation.
* Coal power plants that are located in areas with a carbon tax or cap and trade system in place will have a higher return on investment from a solar retrofit.
“There’s a real dilemma facing operators of coal powered plants,” said John O’Donnell, Ausra’s Executive Vice President. “The price of coal has exploded recently and it continues to rise rapidly. Long-term coal contracts are coming in at 4 times the price of the last iteration of the contract.”
Australia recently ratified the Kyoto Protocol and will begin trading carbon in about a year. Carbon is likely to trade for $30-$60 per ton, according to John O’Donnell. Ausra’s solar thermal retrofits are cost effective around $30 a ton.