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Vast Solar’s concentrated solar go ahead follows solar methanol plant

Manufacturing News

Hot on the heels of the announcement of a solar methanol plant to be built by Vast Solar at Port Augusta in South Australia, the company has been backed to construct a first-of-a-kind 30 MW / 288 MWh concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the same city.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced today it had approved $65 million in funding to Vast Solar for the new plant, known as VS1, which is expected to begin commercial operations in 2025.

ARENA’s funding for VS1 is conditional upon the project reaching financial close.

The $203 million project seeks to demonstrate the technical and operational performance of Vast Solar’s modular CSP technology at utility scale to unlock further investment in future projects and provide a pathway for industry to decarbonise.

The project aims to demonstrate how CSP, which stores energy cost-effectively for long periods with little loss of energy, can provide a reliable and scalable dispatchable renewable energy solution in the Australian market.

CSP uses mirrors to concentrate and capture heat from the sun in solar receivers, with high temperature heat transferred via sodium and stored in molten salt.

The stored heat can then be used to heat water to create steam to power a turbine and produce electricity, or the heat can also be used directly to decarbonise some industrial processes which require high temperatures.

Vast CEO Craig Wood said the project would help anchor the company’s green technology manufacturing activities and ‘dozens of manufacturing jobs’, with the potential to create a billion-dollar CSP export industry.

Wood said: “We are delighted and humbled by the continued support we have received from ARENA and the Commonwealth Government.

“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 and cutting-edge projects such as SM1.”

In January Vast Solar and the Solar Methanol Consortium were selected to receive $19.48 million (EUR13.2 million) from an Australian-German collaboration fund, HyGATE, to develop the world-first green methanol demonstration plant, SM1.

ARENA has supported the Vast Solar technology since 2012, including providing $9.9 million in funding towards the 1.1 MW CSP Pilot Plant in Jemalong, New South Wales.

The innovations in Vast Solar technology, including the modular design, the use of sodium as the heat transfer fluid and patented control systems, allow the generation of higher temperature heat and a greater reliability of performance than traditional CSP technologies.

As such, the Vast Solar CSP technology can result in a pathway to enhanced operational performance and significant cost reduction potential at scale.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the expansion of Vast Solar’s technology into a commercial scale project shows that CSP technology could play an important role in generating and storing renewable energy at scale.

Miller said: “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.

“Vast Solar’s global recognition as a leader in CSP technology innovation, combined with its significant technical and commercial expertise, mean that it is well placed to deliver Australia’s first large scale CSP plant which should deliver power at a cost competitive with other forms of renewable generation.”

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Picture: ARENA

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