The first Australian trial of concentrating solar thermal (CST) technology has been given the green light by Forbes Shire Council.
ABC News states Vast Solar aim to have the demonstration 1.2 MWth solar array with high temperature receivers and integrated thermal storage operating by March next year.
"This project will provide Vast Solar with data on system performance that will support the continued development and commercialisation of CST technology that can break the $100/MWh barrier," says James Fisher, Principal Investigator and Chief Technology Officer of Vast Solar.
The project will seek to determine two elements – the optimal temperature for receivers and heat storage medium. Unlike some other CST facilities, molten salts will not be used for heat storage; but the exact nature of what Vast Solar will be using is unknown.
The company’s web site doesn’t reveal much – it simply states: "Vast Solar has developed IP that reduces the cost of large scale solar installations to the point where, with the addition of currently available renewable energy incentives our solution is commercially competitive with carbon based generating technology."
3,500 heliostats and mechanical drives along with 5 receiving towers will be installed at Jemalong Station. According to the Forbes Advocate, 700 mirrors and one tower are already in place. While access to water will be required as a backup for cooling purposes, the company will be deploying air condenser cooling technology.
Vast Solar’s project partners are Twynam Agricultural Group, The University of NSW and RMIT University. The project has received $400,000 in funding from the Australian Solar Institute.
The world’s first "baseload" concentrating solar thermal plant commenced operations in June 2011. Located in the Spanish province of Andalucia, the 19.9MW Gemasolar project uses molten salt for heat storage; which allows the power station to operate 24 hours a day for much of the year.