In 2012 Vast Solar commenced its 1.2 MW Performance Validation Project which was supported by funding from the then Australian Solar Institute. This involved a single module of Vast Solar’s low-cost, high-performance concentrating solar thermal (CST) power system – a solar field of 700 mirrors focused on a single tower with a thermal energy receiver.
Leveraging private funding raised by Vast Solar from Australian and European investors, ARENA provided funding for Vast Solar to construct a 6MW (th) CST power generation pilot-scale plant comprising five modules and including three hours of thermal energy storage.
This project will demonstrate the reliable and safe operation of the system, gather performance and cost data, refine operational controls and maintenance processes to advance the technology towards commercialisation.
The project will showcase Vast Solar’s low-cost, high efficiency technology, and support marketing plans for the Vast Solar CST system. The plant will connect to the National Electricity Market using Essential Energy’s West Jemalong Substation.
Concentrating solar thermal (CST) power plants harvest the sun’s energy to produce efficient, large-scale solar power generation. A solar array (field of mirrors) reflects the sun’s energy onto a thermal receiver and then to a thermal energy storage system. Energy can be released from storage as required, day and night, to power a traditional steam turbine to generate electricity.
CST with storage can provide reliable, dispatchable energy for electricity generation, for electricity network support, and for industrial processes requiring high efficiency steam supply.
Vast Solar’s CST design, incorporating energy storage, has strong potential to reduce the cost of solar energy to levels comparable with wind energy (around $100 per megawatt hour), with the added value of reliable dispatch of power as and when needed.
Various design strategies are being trialled in the US, Europe and elsewhere to drive down costs for CST systems. However more rapid cost reduction pathways must be demonstrated for CST to become more broadly adopted as a mainstream energy generation technology.
Vast Solar has developed innovative designs for high efficiency/low cost components that enable a step-change reduction in the cost of CST power. These components have been tested individually and as an integrated system through earlier projects executed by Vast Solar.
This pilot scale demonstration is a critical step in proving the Vast Solar low-cost CST system and readying the technology for commercial scale deployment and, ultimately, full commercialisation.. This project will refine components and systems, provide vital information and learnings about the integration of sub-systems to form a safe, reliable operating CST plant delivering high efficiency solar thermal power, integrated thermal energy storage, at a competitive cost.
Vast Solar will:
- fabricate and deploy 3,500 heliostats (mirrors) in five solar arrays, containing 700 heliostats each
- construct and deploy five high temperature receivers mounted on individual towers (one tower/receiver for each of the five solar arrays)
- construct a thermal energy storage system comprising a hot tank (565 degrees Celsius) and ‘cold tank’ (over 200 degrees Celsius) that will capture and store energy for long periods, which can then be released when needed for power generation
- install and operate a complete steam turbine-based electrical generation system and the balance of plant
- install and operate a novel modular air-cooled condenser technology, the MACCSol system, which is developed under the European Union’s FP7 program
- connect the CST power generator to and deliver electricity into the National Electricity Market using Essential Energy’s distribution system.
Data collected from this project will be used to demonstrate the technical performance, cost and long term safety and durability of Vast Solar’s technology, in readiness for commercial deployment.
Vast Solar will provide ARENA with access (on a qualified basis to protect intellectual property) to data and learnings from the project in support of knowledge sharing requirements.
This project will provide evidence of the safe operation of the Vast Solar CST system in a fully functioning pilot power generation facility, in readiness for demonstration of the system at full commercial scale.
The project will provide data to validate system cost/efficiency performance and progress towards the sent out energy cost target of $100/MWh.