CSP specialist Vast Solar plans Australian ‘gigafactory’


Australian solar thermal power (CSP) developer Vast Solar said the way is clear for the development of full-scale manufacturing facilities in Australia after it successfully designed, manufactured and tested its technology at a prototype manufacturing plant in Goodna, west of Brisbane.

The Sydney-based developer said the next-generation components will now be manufactured for commercial deployment at an automated manufacturing plant to be developed in partnership with unidentified auto-industry manufacturing firms.

Vast Solar chief executive Craig Wood said on Thursday the company is currently in discussions with state and federal governments and investors to identify a suitable location for the manufacturing facility, which would be scaled up to become “the world’s first CSP gigafactory.”

“CSP is an industry in which Australia genuinely has the potential to be a world leader, and getting manufacturing up and running will ensure we don’t lose out to overseas competitors who are rapidly developing their CSP capabilities,” Wood said.

“Our CSP gigafactory is a big step forward for Vast Solar and, more importantly, Australia’s ambitions to develop a clean energy manufacturing industry,” Wood continued, noting the technology will be deployed in sunny countries the world over but manufactured locally.

The announcement comes as Vast Solar eyes potential projects in the United States on the back of investment incentives from the US government to advance the development of CSP technologies.

Vast Solar is part of a consortium, led by Solar Dynamics, that will receive $3.67 million (USD 2.3 million) from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to explore the use of CSP technologies in industrial settings.

Vast Solar has been operating a 1 MW pilot plant at Jemalong since 2018.

Image: Vast Solar

Unlike traditional CSP technology which uses molten salt both as a heat transfer and for storage, Vast Solar has developed modular technology that combines the advantages of central tower CSP systems with a solar array. This modular technology is combined 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 said the technology allows plants to be configured with four to 16 hours of storage and generators of up to 500 MW.

The technology is on show at Jemalong in regional New South Wales where a 1 MW pilot plant, which was constructed adjacent to a 50 MW solar PV project, has been delivering electricity to the grid since early 2018.

It is also scheduled for deployment at Vast Solar’s 30 MW utility scale power plant near Port Augusta in South Australia. The company has also announced plans to develop a 50 MW baseload solar hybrid plant at Mount Isa in Queensland.

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