Vast Solar completes capital raise for 50 MW CSP, PV hybrid project


Australian concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) specialist Vast Solar has raised capital to develop a 30 MW CSP facility with 10 hours storage, which will be collocated with a 20 MW PV plant. The company’s technology is touted to be generating energy at a lower cost than coal, gas and other renewable and storage technologies.

As reported early this year, Vast Solar needed to secure $75 million in funding. It was approaching oil companies, Australian utilities as well as renewable energy investors in the Middle East and China. To help move forward the $240 million project, Vast Solar was also talking to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the governments of NSW, Queensland and South Australia as it considered several alternative sites in those states.

Last Thursday, the company announced the completion of the capital raise to fund the next phase of the project, with further support gained from existing investors. “Project details continue to evolve as we respond to changing market conditions and we successfully raised what’s required to move the Reference Project to financial close,”, the company said in a statement. “We are assessing a number of sites for the next project with the potential for both CSP and PV.”

The technology has been proven at Vast Solar’s 1 MW pilot plant, which has been delivering electricity to the grid since early 2018. Deployed adjacent to a 50 MW solar PV project at Jemalong in New South Wales, the project was announced as the world’s first modular CSP facility using sodium in January 2017. The $23.7 million facility was backed by ARENA with a nearly $10 million grant.

Unlike traditional CSP technology that uses molten salt both as a heat transfer and for storage, Vast Solar has developed low cost, modular, CSP technology with integrated thermal storage that uses sodium for heat transfer and molten salt for on-demand storage, both of which create steam to drive a turbine. The company has been working with the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales to explore the potential of its CSP technology.

Vast Solar’s technology allows plants to be configured with 4-16 hours of storage and generators of up to 500MW. It combines elements of molten salt and thermal oil through systems to achieve efficient distributed energy collection at high temperatures and deliver dramatic cost and performance benefits, including in construction and operation, when built at scale.

The company’s technology was recently awarded the CSP Technology Innovation Prize at the international CSPPLAZA Conference 2019 held in Suzhou, China. “Following the success of our pilot project, we are looking forward to commercialising the technology and we welcome international partners that can help us fully realise the potential of this groundbreaking technology,” Craig Wood, CEO of Vast Solar, said addressing the conference.

“Our innovations have delivered world-leading control of HTF temperatures which enables higher operating temperatures and power cycle efficiency, increased energy capture through superior transient ride-through and reduced risk to downstream equipment,” he said, adding Vast Solar expects its CSP technology to play a major role in energy developments in China and Around the world in the coming years.

CSP technology grabbed the limelight in Australia two years ago, when the South Australian government inked a generation project agreement with U.S. developer SolarReserve for a massive solar thermal plant project, mooted as the world’s biggest. However, the 150 MW Aurora solar thermal plant ground to halt earlier this year after it failed to reach financial close. SolarReserve proposed selling the project to a third party.

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