RayGen officially opens 4 MW ‘solar hydro’ power plant


RayGen has officially launched its first commercial concentrated PV and thermal storage project following the successful commissioning of a 4 MW solar plant backed by 2.8 MW/50 MWh of long-duration storage at Carwarp in Victoria’s northwest.

RayGen said the plant, located about 20 minutes south of Mildura, has been “exporting electricity day and night and has been charging our storage from our solar and from the grid.”

“All component systems have demonstrated performance against specification,” the company said, noting an offtake agreement with energy generating and retailing giant AGL for the entirety of the plant’s production will soon come into effect.

The Carwarp plant uses a combination of RayGen’s solar and hydro technology to produce 24-hour renewable electricity. The system features a field of smart, rotational mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto a tower-mounted receiver containing an array of PV modules. That solar energy is combined with the energy stored across two water reservoirs to create a ‘hot and cold’ solar hydro solution.

Melbourne-based RayGen said the Carwarp plant will add 4 MW of renewable power and 17 hours of storage capacity to the West Murray grid. The plant is expected to provide enough renewable electricity to power approximately 1,700 average Victorian homes.

RayGen Chief Executive Officer Richard Payne said the successful commissioning of the Carwarp plant is a significant milestone in the commercialisation of the company’s energy generation and storage technologies.

“This project has validated the performance of our modular system at utility scale,” he said. “In just four years, we have progressed from a concept for dispatchable renewable energy to a utility-scale reality.”

The technology has the ability to co-generate electricity and heat, with the latter captured and stored as hot water in a reservoir.

Image: RayGen

Payne said the project has provided valuable, real-world ‘lessons learned’ which have been incorporated into the development of much larger projects.

“Successfully delivering this project is simply an outstanding result and provides a launching pad to deploy much larger projects,” he said.

Markus Brokhof, chief operating officer at AGL which is developing a similar solar-plus-thermal storage plant with RayGen at the former coal-fired Liddell power station site in New South Wales, said the technology provides a possible solution to the challenge of long-duration energy storage particularly given its potential to be scaled.

“This innovative approach to long-duration energy storage using concentrated PV and thermal hydro storage greatly improves the efficiency and economics of solar plus storage, providing a potential solution for long duration energy storage,” he said, adding “the technology has the potential to be deployed at greater scale.”

The official launch of the Carwarp plant coincided with an announcement from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) confirming that it will provide an additional $10 million (USD 6.5 million) in grant funding to accelerate the development of RayGen’s technology.

Payne said the new funding agreement will allow RayGen to “industrialise our supply chain, progress engineering for larger projects, and accelerate down the cost-curve.”

“Our pipeline is part of the energy transition of this country,” he said. “RayGen’s new approach complements other established solutions and offers the lowest cost pathway to a zero-carbon grid.”

As well as working with AGL to develop a plant at Liddell, RayGen is also working with Dutch company Photon Energy on a major project in South Australia. The proposed Yadnarie project would have a total solar generation capacity of 200 MWdc coupled with 24 hours of energy storage capacity.

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