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A greener and fresher way of growing tomatoes year round

Sundrop Farms


John Holland Group


Port Augusta, South Australia

About The Project

Sundrop Farms has the world’s first solar thermal powered greenhouse of its kind, desalinating water for irrigation and growing tomatoes all year round using renewable energy. It uses concentrated solar power to produce heat, electricity and water to grow fresh produce sustainably. Sundrop’s greenhouse turns seawater and sunlight into energy and water. This groundbreaking approach to greener farming is setting the benchmark for sustainable agriculture worldwide.

Sundrop’s cutting edge developments include a 20Ha semi- closed greenhouse and a 120 metres tall concentrated solar thermal tower system. Seawater is pumped over 6 kilometres from the Alinta channel to the Sundrop plant. Twenty-six thousand mirrors provide the heat to desalinate over 1 million litres of sea water daily to give fresh water to the greenhouse system. The solar thermal system generates temperatures of 95 degree C to heat the greenhouses at night, eliminating over 6 million litres of diesel per year. The system also produces high-quality steam to run a steam turbine generator, which provides over 20% of the plant’s electricity needs.

CNF partnered with John Holland to:

  • Review the design and oversee the implementation of the various plant components and sub-contractors;
  • Undertake a process and performance target review of the solar thermal and energy generation system;
  • Design the complete ‘balance of plant’ electrical and controls system, including:
    • A 33kV/415V site power distribution network;
    • An automatic black-start and backup generator control system, to keep all essential services running and to minimise the loss of produce during a power outage.
    • Site-wide communication and control network, enabling the various components (particularly power generation and greenhouse) to communicate with each other.

This ensured the many control systems and diesel power back up were fully integrated and worked seamlessly.

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Major Achievements

  • Integrating the greenhouse and power island electrical and control systems to act as a seamless control unit.
  • Minimising diesel usage by maximising the use of thermal energy storage.

Project Innovations

  • Optimising the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) control system to smooth the effects of the variable Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) caused by cloud cover.
  • Fine tuning the performance of the Thermal Energy Storage (TES) tank by minimising the depth of the stratification layer.

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