Successful commissioning and operation of Australia-based Vast Solar’s 1 MW pilot project is delivering dispatchable renewable power to the grid and driving the company’s next move. The world-leading concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) company is now looking to raise $75m from strategic partners to build its business and help finance its first utility scale power plant.
CSP is rapidly becoming the preferred means of generating cost-effective dispatchable renewable power in sunny regions. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) projects 633GW of installed CSP by 2050, with China investing heavily and South Africa recently adding CSP to firm its grid following issues with coal plants.
CSP technology uses heliostats – mirrors that track the sun in two directions – to concentrate solar radiation onto a receiving tower. Unlike traditional CSP, Vast Solar uses sodium as the heat transfer fluid to capture the concentrated solar energy, which can then be stored and used on-demand to drive a conventional turbine and generate electricity.
Vast Solar’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency-backed pilot project at Jemalong, NSW, is the first modular CSP facility using sodium in the world. The unique modular design and world-leading thermal control overcome many of the challenges faced by other CSP technologies. It is the missing link in the renewables transition, according to Vast Solar CEO, Craig Wood.
“The success of our pilot plant has proven our technology can deliver dispatchable renewable energy to the grid and we are confident that, at scale, our technology will produce power at a lower cost than coal, gas or other renewable storage technologies.”
Working with the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales – recognised globally for their renewables research – Vast Solar has become a world-leader in the use and management of sodium, which is far more abundant and accessible than lithium.
While grid-scale lithium batteries can assist grid stability over short periods, Vast Solar’s technology has the potential to supply energy to the grid for many hours while the sun isn’t shining. Plants can be configured with 4-16 hours of storage and generators of up to 500MW.
Vast Solar is working with investment bank Moelis Australia to raise $75m to develop its business and finance its upcoming 50MW hybrid project, comprising a 30MW CSP plant with 10 hours storage and a 20MW photovoltaic plant.
Keen on securing a strategic partner who can help take the technology global, Wood commented:
“Thanks to the assistance of our existing supporters, including ARENA, we’ve proven this transformative technology. We now want investors that can help us commercialise the technology, take it global and play a key role in solving the world’s energy trilemma.