1414 Degrees to power abandoned Aurora CSP site with PV and thermal storage

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Plans for electricity generation at the Aurora concentrated solar power project site have been rekindled by Adelaide-based thermal energy storage company 1414 Degrees, which has unveiled new plans for the location. The 150 MW Aurora plant billed as the world’s biggest ground to a halt earlier this year after U.S. developer SolarReserve had run into difficulties in securing finance for the project.

On Friday, 1414 Degrees announced plans to acquire SolarReserve Australia II, which owns the Aurora project in South Australia and two more solar sites in New South Wales. The company’s plan is to refocus the Aurora site and build up to 400 MW of solar PV coupled with a grid-scale Thermal Energy Storage System (TESS-GRID), which it plans to progressively scale up the storage capacity of several thousand MWh.

According to the company, the TESS-GRID at this scale would be able to supply many hours of dispatchable electricity with spinning reserve from its turbines and a range of frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) to support grid stability. It could also buy and store electricity generated by other renewable farms on the high voltage transmission network in the region, strengthening firming services and earnings from market arbitrage.

“We will be using South Australian technology to create a large-scale, thermal energy storage plant near Port Augusta able to supply reliable power on demand to the national grid,” 1414 Degrees Executive Chairman Kevin Moriarty said.

On top of that, the company will be looking to use heat from the TESS-GRID to power “smart farms”, protected cropping greenhouses and industry, as it meanwhile investigates production of hydrogen using the excess heat from its turbines. Earlier this year, 1414 Degrees came together with a number of partners to identify and develop “smart farm” projects using its thermal energy storage solution, which stores electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon and, according to the company, comes at a cost up to 10 times cheaper than lithium batteries. 

The Aurora Solar Energy Project has SA Government development approval for a 70 MW solar PV farm and a 150 MW CSP plant, so 1414 Degrees will need to vary or submit a new development application for its ambitious PV+TESS-GRID plans. The abandoned project was expected to cover 100% of the SA government’s power needs, under a 20-year generation project agreement inked in 2017. SolarReserve’s bid at the time of $78/MWh was unexpectedly low for CSP, and went on to win the government tender.

As the main reason behind its decision to buy SolarReserve Australia II, 1414 Degrees points to several advantages of the Aurora site for the development of its TESS-GRID solution. According to Moriarty, these include the unregulated high-voltage transmission line to the OZ Minerals Carrapateena and Prominent Hill mines, which is being constructed along the boundary of the Aurora Solar Energy Project, and a substation planned for the existing Aurora site with a direct connection to the Davenport substation in Port Augusta. Looking further, Davenport is part of the major transmission networks to Eyre Peninsula, Adelaide and the new interconnector to New South Wales.

“This project is currently not impacted by marginal loss factors (MLF) that have constrained output from renewable farms in remoter parts of the national grid,” Moriarty adds. “We will reopen negotiations with OZ Minerals and ElectraNet as soon as the acquisition is complete.”

The $2 million acquisition will be funded by the company’s cash reserves. High capital requirements on the Aurora project will be avoided by staging the development and 1414 Degrees expects the advanced status of this project to result in early revenues from energy sales. The company has also proposed to offer its more than 3,000 shareholders an entitlement to directly invest in units of the Aurora Solar Energy Project alongside the institutional funds

“We’ve had a lot of interest from infrastructure and investment funds seeking to invest in the potential of our technology and this large solar farm will generate significant revenues while supporting the staged development of our large-scale energy storage technology,” Moriarty said.