Vast announces key contracts for 288 MWh solar thermal project

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Australian solar thermal specialist Vast announced it has awarded Worley key engineering contracts for the proposed VS1 concentrated solar power (CSP) project being developed near Port Augusta in South Australia.

The $203 million (USD 134 million) project seeks to demonstrate the technical and operational performance of Vast’s modular CSP technology at utility scale, with the 30 MW plant to generate more than eight hours of thermal energy storage.

The Sydney-based developer said it has appointed Worley and its specialist consulting division, Advisian, to complete basic engineering of the project by July 2023, followed by front-end engineering design (FEED) in the balance of this year. Construction of VS1 is on track to begin in 2024.

Vast Chief Executive Officer Craig Wood said the decision to award Worley the contract for the project builds upon an existing relationship which will help expedite the project.

“Vast has a long-standing relationship with Worley and Advisian dating back to assistance with the engineering and commissioning of our 1.1 MW grid connected Jemalong demonstration plant,” he said. “Their skill in integrating our technology with major packages to be delivered by key equipment partners from around the world will allow VS1 to progress towards FID late this year.”

The VS1 project is set to be the first utility-scale plant to use Vast’s technology which utilises mirrors to concentrate and capture heat from the sun in solar receivers during the day before generating heat and dispatchable power during the day or night.

Unlike traditional CSP technology which uses molten salt both as a heat transfer and for storage, Vast’s proprietary technology uses sodium for heat transfer and molten salt for on-demand storage, both of which create steam to drive a turbine. The company said its technology allows plants to be configured with 4-16 hours of storage and generators of up to 500 MW.

The VS1 project has attracted significant support from the Australian government, most recently, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) approving up to $65 million in funding to support construction of the project.

That funding announcement came after Vast secured almost $40 million as part of the HyGate program, a collaboration between the Australian and German governments to establish a green hydrogen supply chain between the two nations.

That funding will support Vast, as part of the broader Solar Methanol Consortium, to develop a green methanol production plant which will be co-located with VS1.

The Solar Methanol 1 (SM1) project entails the use of a 10 MW electrolyser for the manufacture of green hydrogen as an input to green methanol production. Electricity and heat generated by the VS1 project will be used to power the electrolyser. It is anticipated the facility will produce 7,500 tonnes of green methanol per annum for use as a sustainable shipping fuel.

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