Manufacturing News

Vast Solar resurrects Port Augusta thermal power plant

Manufacturing News

By Peter Roberts

One of the criticisms of renewables thrown up by sceptics in the former Coalition government was that it was not dispatchable, that is it couldn’t provide power ‘when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow’.

Lithium ion batteries provided an underpowered part of the answer to that but the real answer was always solar thermal energy where energy can be stored in – and released at will from – molten salts heated to high temperatures by concentrated solar power stations.

The pin up boy for that hope was always the Aurora project centred around the wind and solar hotspot of Port Augusta at the head of South Australia’s Spencer Gulf.

But that project has been on again off again and under different owners until now – with Vast Solar now developing the breakthrough project ‘like a phoenix rising from the ashes’ according to Craig Wood CEO Vast Solar.

Wood took to social media to thank Clare Peddie and Cosmos Magazine for a write-up on its Vast Solar VS1 project in Port Augusta, South Australia located at the Aurora Energy Precinct – something which prompted me to take another look at a project I have written about regularly but which has until now never quite made it to reality.

Wood said: “VS1 is a 30MW concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) plant that will generate clean, low-cost, dispatchable power available on demand for up to 12 hours – even when the sun isn’t shining.

“As Clare mentions in her article, storage of 4-to-12 hours’ duration is ‘the most pressing utility-scale need in the next decade’, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).”

Wood points out that this time frame is required ‘to manage stronger daily variations in solar and wind output, and to meet consumer demand, also during more extreme days, as coal capacity declines’.

“With more sun shining on Australia than any country in the world, CSP (concentrated solar power) plays a crucial role in Australia’s long-duration energy storage future.”

In its 2022-23 Budget process, the federal government agreed to negotiate with Vast Solar the terms of concessional finance of up to $110 million to support the development of the 20MW VS1 CSP project.

The facility will be able to dispatch – there’s that word again – power to locally to support developing green hydrogen projcts, or send it to the eastern seaboard through a second interstate electricity connector now under construction.

Energy will be stored in the form of liquid sodium.

So CSP solar and wind could be cooking dinners in Sydney, or keeping the street lights on overnight in Newcastle.

A bonus is the operations workforce will largely consist of former Port Augusta coal-fired power station workers.

Renewables really are a thing of beauty – already cheaper than any other power source, they really are the future.

And the future really is dispatchable.

Further Reading:

Picture: Vast Solar

Share this Story
Manufacturing News

Stay Informed

Go to Top