The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has confirmed it has approved AUD 65 million ($44.95 million) in funding to renewables developer Vast Solar to construct VS1, a “first-of-a-kind” CSP plant north of Port Augusta, South Australia.
Vast Solar Chief Executive Officer Craig Wood said the AUD 203 million project seeks to demonstrate the technical and operational performance of the company’s modular CSP technology at utility scale, helping to unlock further investment in future projects and provide another pathway for Australian industry to decarbonise.
“The world-leading VS1 plant will have an important impact on the future of clean, dispatchable energy generation in Australia and globally, allowing us to sustainably power electricity grids overnight,” he said.
Vast Solar’s CSP technology uses mirrors to concentrate and capture heat from the sun in solar receivers, with high temperature heat transferred via liquid sodium and stored in molten salt. The stored energy can then be used to heat water to create steam to drive a turbine and produce electricity, or the heat can also be used directly to decarbonize some industrial processes.
The Sydney-based developer said its technology allows plants to be configured with four to 16 hours of storage and generators of up to 500 MW. Wood said one of the benefits of CSP is that the captured heat can be stored cost-effectively for long periods with little loss of energy. This means that CSP can be used to generate electricity or provide heat on demand, including overnight.
The technology is on show at Jemalong, New South Wales, where a 1 MW pilot plant, which was constructed adjacent to a 50 MW solar PV project, has been delivering electricity to the grid since early 2018.
ARENA Chief Executive Officer Darren Miller said the expansion of Vast Solar’s technology into a commercial-scale project illustrates that CSP technology could play an important role in generating and storing renewable energy at scale.
“With the increasing need for dispatchable renewable generation and longer duration energy storage, CSP has potential to assist Australia’s energy transition alongside pumped hydro and large-scale batteries,” he said.
ARENA’s funding for VS1 is conditional upon the project reaching financial close, which is targeted to occur in late 2023. VS1 is expected to take two years to build with commercial operations commencing late 2025.
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