Australia’s 1414 Degrees to supply abandoned Aurora CSP site with PV, thermal storage

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Plans for electricity generation at the Aurora concentrated solar power (CSP) project site have been rekindled by Adelaide-based thermal energy storage company 1414 Degrees. The 150 MW Aurora plant, billed as the world’s biggest, ground to a halt earlier this year after U.S. developer SolarReserve struggled to secure financing.

On Friday, 1414 Degrees announced plans to acquire SolarReserve Australia II, which owns the Aurora project in South Australia and two more solar sites in New South Wales. The company’s plan is to refocus the Aurora site and build up to 400 MW of solar PV coupled with a grid-scale thermal energy storage system (TESS-GRID), which it plans to progressively scale up to several thousand megawatt-hours of storage capacity.

TESS-GRID at this scale could supply many hours of dispatchable electricity with spinning reserves from its turbines, while offering a range of frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) to support grid stability. It could also buy and store electricity generated by other renewable energy projects on the regional high-voltage transmission network,  to strengthening firming services and earnings from market arbitrage.

“We will be using South Australian technology to create a large-scale, thermal energy storage plant near Port Augusta able to supply reliable power on demand to the national grid,” said Kevin Moriarty, executive chairman of 1414 Degrees.

The company will also use heat from TESS-GRID to power “smart farms,” as it looks into the production of hydrogen using excess heat from its turbines. Earlier this year, 1414 Degrees came together with a number of partners to identify and develop “smart farm” projects using its thermal energy storage solutions, which store electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon.

The Aurora Solar Energy Project has South Australian government approval for a 70 MW solar array and a 150 MW CSP plant, so 1414 Degrees will need to vary or submit a new development application for its ambitious PV+TESS-GRID plans. The abandoned project was expected to cover 100% of the state government’s power needs, under a 20-year generation project agreement signed in 2017. SolarReserve’s bid at the time of $78/MWh was unexpectedly low for CSP, and it went on to win the government tender.

There are a number of reasons why 1414 Degrees decided to buy SolarReserve Australia II. “This project is currently not impacted by marginal loss factors (MLF) that have constrained output from renewable farms in remoter parts of the national grid,” Moriarty said. “We will reopen negotiations with OZ Minerals and ElectraNet as soon as the acquisition is complete.”

The AUD 2 million ($1.4 million) acquisition will be funded by the company’s cash reserves. It will avoid high capital requirements on the Aurora project by building in phases. It has also offered its 3,000+ shareholders the chance to directly invest in units of the Aurora Solar Energy Project, alongside institutional funds

“We’ve had a lot of interest from infrastructure and investment funds seeking to invest in the potential of our technology and this large solar farm will generate significant revenues while supporting the staged development of our large-scale energy storage technology,” Moriarty said.