Vast Solar pushes ahead with ‘world-class’ solar thermal project
Originally published in pv magazine, authored by David Carroll.
Australian solar thermal specialist Vast Solar has announced plans to build a 30MW concentrated solar thermal power plant with more than eight hours of energy storage near Port Augusta in South Australia after securing financial backing from the federal government.
Australian renewable energy developer Vast Solar has confirmed it will build a 30MW concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) plant near the regional South Australian township of Port Augusta after securing up to $110 million in concessional finance from the federal government.
The finance was announced on Friday by federal energy minister Angus Taylor. Taylor said the Morrison Government had through its 2022-23 Budget process agreed to negotiate with Vast Solar the terms of concessional finance of up to $110 million to support the development of the 30MW CSP project.
Vast Solar chief executive officer Craig Wood said the “world-leading facility” will generate clean, low-cost, reliable power, and catalyse an export-focussed renewables manufacturing industry.
“This announcement is great news for South Australia and the country’s transition to net zero. We’ll be working closely with the state and commonwealth governments, the local community and businesses, to ensure this project delivers for South Australians,” he said.
“Alongside our Mt Isa project, this is another step forward for solar thermal technology in Australia. It complements wind and solar as it can generate low-cost, clean electricity for 12-plus hours when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, meaning solar thermal has a huge role to play in the energy transition.
“What’s more, our technology is attracting international attention, and we are committed to seizing the opportunity to create a solar thermal export industry that brings jobs, billions of dollars in export revenue, and helps Australia become a clean energy superpower.”
Sydney-based Vast Solar, which is also developing a 50MW hybrid solar thermal project at Mount Isa in western Queensland, said the South Australian project will feature the same modular tower CSP technology that the company has deployed at Jemalong in New South Wales (NSW). The 1MW pilot plant, which was constructed adjacent to a 50MW solar PV project, has been delivering electricity to the grid since early 2018.
Unlike traditional CSP technology which uses molten salt both as a heat transfer and for storage, Vast Solar has developed technology that uses sodium for heat transfer and molten salt for on-demand storage, both of which create steam to drive a turbine. The technology allows plants to be configured with 4-16 hours of storage and generators of up to 500MW.
Wood said the Port Augusta project would produce dispatchable renewable electricity “available on demand for eight hours or more”, aligning with the federal government’s Technology Investment Roadmap.
The Roadmap identifies CSP as a key technology to achieve net zero by 2050 and Wood said the technology has already deployed at scale overseas with the International Energy Agency forecasting it will increase 10-fold to 73GW globally by 2030.
Wood said Vast Solar’s technology will help resolve intermittency challenges associated with variable renewable energy sources as they deliver increasingly more ‘bulk’ renewable energy to the world’s power grids.
“Our CSP technology delivers utility scale renewable energy generation with scalable, thermal storage,” he said. “This delivers the ability to generate renewable energy during the day and to dispatch renewable energy 24 hours – during the day and night.”