Vast Solar progresses plans for $600 million solar thermal plant


Sydney-based Vast Solar announced on Thursday the project is calling for expressions of interest from contractors across a range of workstreams as it looks to develop a 50 MW hybrid power plant in Mount Isa.

The proposed North West Queensland Hybrid Power Project (NWQHPP) will combine solar PV, a large-scale battery and gas engines with Vast Solar’s own concentrated solar thermal power technology, using mirrors and receiving towers to gather and store the sun’s energy.

“This is another significant milestone as we work through the feasibility study and get closer to turning soil on site,” Vast Solar CEO Craig Wood said.

“We are looking forward to hearing from a range of contractors who will be critical in bringing this project to life.

“Vast Solar has been engaging local contractors to deliver various services at the proposed project site since July 2020, and we look forward to continuing our commitment to providing local employment opportunities.

“(But) building the plant will require collaboration between local, regional and national experts from a range of fields, and will involve hundreds of workers.”

The call for expressions of interest comes after Vast Solar and Queensland Government-owned electricity generator Stanwell Energy earlier this year announced a joint development agreement to undertake a $10 million feasibility study for the NWQHPP.

The project will deliver dispatchable energy to Mt Isa and surrounds.

Image: Vast Solar

The feasibility study, which will examine logistical details, planning requirements and financing, is one of several milestones to be reached before final investment decision and project approval.

It study is expected to be completed later this year, with approvals expected early in 2022, followed by two years of construction. Early generation could start in 2023 as part of a staggered construction program that brings some elements of the hybrid power plant into operations early.

Vast Solar said the NWQHPP will deliver dispatchable energy 24 hours a day. The company said the will produce 85% clean energy and use significantly less fuel than current generators.Mount Isa Mayor Danielle Slade has welcomed the project, saying it is “exactly the type of project our community needs”.

“Our local industries are crying out for affordable electricity and, coupled with the CopperString 2.0 project, this solar initiative will help to make that happen,” she said.

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