South Australia is to get its first solar thermal power plant after its developer received the go-ahead from the state’s government this week.

The AUD$650m ($518m), 150 MW Aurora project will be developed by US-based SolarReserve, which says it will be the largest project of its kind in the world.

The plant will be located around 30 km north of Port Augusta and will feature 1100 MWh of integrated molten salt energy storage, providing eight hours of full load power after dark.

According to SolarReserve, the plant will be able to deliver 135 MW under normal operating conditions with the ability to increase that output in favourable conditions. It is expected to produce 495 GWh per year and to supply 100 per cent of the South Australian government’s power from 2020.

Final approvals are expected in the first half of 2018 and construction is expected to start shortly thereafter, SolarReserve said.

The firm’s CEO Kevin Smith pointed out that his company had won a competitive tender for the project over fossil-fuelled plants. He said the plant is expected to “operate just like a conventional coal or gas power station, reliably generating electricity day and night – except without any emissions”.

South Australia’s acting energy minister, Chris Picton, added that “It’s fantastic that SolarReserve has received development approval to move forward with this world-leading project that will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals, schools and other major government buildings”.

Picton said the project will create around 700 jobs, and will “add new competition to the South Australian market, putting downward pressure on power prices”. 

The project joins Tesla’s 100 MW battery energy storage installation, also in South Australia, and a proposed 25-45 MW battery system for the Northern Territories to produce what Australia’s Climate Council has termed a renewables investment bonanza.