Photon plans world’s largest solar+storage project in South Australia


Photon Energy is proposing to build a large-scale renewable energy facility in South Australia that will showcase Melbourne-based RayGen Resources’ innovative ‘solar-hydro’ technology which merges solar power generation with long-duration energy storage.

The power plant is set to be built in South Australia with the Amsterdam-headquartered Photon Energy saying it has already secured 1,200 hectares of land for the project. The company did not however reveal the specific location.

Photon said the project will have a total solar generation capacity of 300 MW with a grid connection capacity of 150 MW. The target energy storage capacity is 3.6 GWh, equivalent to 24 hours of full load, to the grid, from storage. If the target is achieved, it will exceed the 3 GWh capacity of the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station in Morocco, which currently has the world’s largest energy storage capacity of any type, excluding pumped hydro.

“We are very excited to be developing this innovative and globally significant solar energy storage project in South Australia,” said Michael Gartner, Photon Energy chief technical officer and managing director of its Australian operations

“The enviable solar resource and need for energy storage due to high penetration of renewables in this region is a perfect match for RayGen’s technology.”

Photon said it is working on the permitting and grid-connection processes and expects to complete the preparatory work by the end of 2023.

The project will utilise RayGen’s concentrated solar technology coupled with electro-thermal storage technology.

Image: RayGen

The project will utilise RayGen’s concentrated solar PV Ultra technology with electro-thermal storage comprising water-based pit thermal energy storage, Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) turbines and industrial chillers.

RayGen’s technology co-generates renewable energy and large-scale storage by focusing sunlight with a field of aligned mirrors, or heliostats, onto a tower-mounted receiver containing an array of PV Ultra modules made of gallium arsenide PV cells, creating the ability to co-generate electricity and heat.

The heat generated by the concentrated PV technology generates heat is captured and used to boost the efficiency of the thermal storage element. The electro-thermal storage system consists of an ORC turbine, industrial chillers and two insulated water-based thermal storage pits or reservoirs. One of the reservoirs is kept at a temperature of 90 degrees and the other at close to 0 degrees, and the temperature difference is used to generate dispatchable electricity using ORC turbines.

RayGen has been operating the technology for more than six years in a 1 MW pilot project at Newbridge, Victoria and is currently building 4 MW of solar PV generation and 3 MW / 50 MWh (equivalent to 17 hours) of dispatchable storage capacity at Carwarp in the state’s northwest.

Construction of the Carwarp facility is well underway with commissioning scheduled in 2022.

Image: RayGen

The Carwarp facility is due for completion in mid-2022 and RayGen expects it will be able to satisfy the Low Emissions Technology Statement stretch goal of providing firmed renewables for under $100 / MWh.

RayGen chief executive Richard Payne has previously said the great potential of the technology is in its scalability with the PV Ultra technology able to generate the same amount of electricity as a normal solar facility with only a quarter of the land.

“Australia’s energy transition will require storage solutions that can store power cost-effectively for hours, days or weeks and be deployed at large scale around the world,” he said.

“RayGen has developed an innovative solar-plus-storage product that captures sunlight with mirrors and stores energy in water. Our technology provides firm renewable power at low cost, while conserving natural resources and our environment.”

Photon said the South Australian project is one of “multiple sites” it is currently developing in Australia which are suitable for RayGen’s solar technology in combination with its energy storage solution.

The announcement comes after RayGen recently closed its Series C capital raise for $55 million where Photon participated alongside AGL Energy, Schlumberger New Energy, Chevron Technology Ventures and Equinor Ventures. As well as the private funding, the investment round also included $15 million of grant funding from the national Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

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