An organization called CORENA, Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia is running a campaign to get 50,000 people to contribute $100 each in order to raise $5 million dollars. Once that happens, the organization will begin constructing a solar thermal power plant for Australia. If the project is completed it will be a 50 MW plant, or enough to power thousands of homes.

The first project stage would be things like planning, permitting, siting and creating backup power so there would be onsite electricity for later construction.

In stage two, molten salt storage tanks could be added. This step is critically important because with storage, the electricity the plant generates can be captured as very hot salt. This medium can be used to continue generating electricity at night or on cloudy days. (A different project in the U.S. said it could run solar power 24 hours a day if it wanted to because it was storing solar power as molten salt.)

Of course, it isn’t necessary to store thermal energy that long because a 50 MW solar power plant can generate plenty of electricity during daylight hours for a small community, and the downtime for the solar power generation is much less than 24 hours typically.

The plant could actually generate revenues on its own. If it starts with 10 MW of solar capacity, it could produce electricity that could be sold at peak consumption times, thereby making money. (In this use it would function like a peaker plant, which supplements the grid during high demand times.)

Any revenues generated could be saved and then applied to adding even more MW of modules later.

This is an exciting project. Most of us have heard of crowdfunding campaigns like the ones on IndieGoGo and KickStarter. It makes a lot of sense that there should be one for a large solar power plant, because the return on investment could be considerable. How would you estimate the value of 20 years or more of clean electricity?

What about raising awareness about community solar projects? Solar power is not limited to rooftop residential and commercial installations.