ARENA provides $65m funding for Vast Solar's CSP plant

Vast Solar Pty Ltd

Wednesday, 15 February, 2023

ARENA provides $65m funding for Vast Solar's CSP plant

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have approved $65 million funding for VS1, Vast Solar’s 30 MW/288 MWh reference plant in Port Augusta, South Australia. This project aims to be the catalyst for an Australian concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) industry.

The $203 million project aims to demonstrate the technical and operational performance of Vast Solar’s modular CSP technology for the Australian market. VS1 is the first utility-scale CSP plant that will deploy Vast Solar’s technology, which can generate clean, low-cost, dispatchable power by capturing and storing the sun’s energy during the day to be used to generate heat and power, including at night.

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.

The CSP uses turbines similar to those found in coal and gas power plants to generate electricity, which could create jobs for skilled workers displaced by the closure of fossil fuel-fired power plants.

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.

Vast Solar is currently working with state and federal governments to identify the site of the first full-scale manufacturing facility, which will produce the Australian designed CSP technology.

Prototype manufacturing facility. Image credit Vast Solar.

The announcement follows recent news of AU$19.48m and EUR13.2m funding from HyGATE, a collaboration between the Australian and German Governments, for Solar Methanol 1 (SM1), a project to help decarbonise hard-to-abate industries.

“The scale of the energy transformation underway is massive – it’s great to see an Australian company developing breakthrough technology to create jobs and clean, reliable and affordable power in the regions,” said Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen.

According to Bowen, this technology could meet the need for dispatchable renewable energy, energy security and longer duration storage. It will help support Australia’s target of getting the electricity grid to 82% renewables by 2023.

Darren Miller, ARENA CEO, said the expansion of Vast Solar’s technology into a commercial project shows that CSP technology could play a 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,” Miller said.

Vast CEO Craig Wood thanked ARENA and the commonwealth government for their support in the project.

VS1 is expected to take two years to build with commercial operations commencing late 2025.

Top image caption: Vast Solar’s Jemalong-based pilot plant.

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