Forbes will soon be home to Australia’s first Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant to be connected to the electricity grid
Forbes will soon be home to Australia’s first solar thermal power plant to be connected to the electricity grid, and the developers of the renewable energy project hope the milestone sparks interest from potential investors.
Vast Solar CEO Andrew Want last week outlined the company’s plans to build a 30 megawatt concentrated solar thermal (CST) plant on Jemalong Station, south-west of Forbes, with the capacity to supply the energy grid with 7500 megawatt (MW) hours each year.
This is enough energy to power about 15,000 average size homes.
Addressing Forbes residents at Jemalong Regional Education Centre last Tuesday, Mr Want said Vast Solar’s CST technology had the potential to make Forbes a hub for power generation, and would hopefully attract interest from potential energy suppliers and public or private investment.
While the 30MW plant has an estimated value of $80-$100 million and requires State Government approval, a smaller 6MW pilot plant is already operational and will soon tap into an Essential Energy sub-station just a few kilometres from where the project is taking shape.
“The pilot project will be the only grid-connected CST plant in Australia so we expect this to attract a lot of attention,” Mr Want said at the information seminar.
The Vast Solar CEO conceded there were a few hurdles in the way of the 30MW commercial plant – chiefly the federal government’s reluctance to offer any incentives for industry to invest in renewable energy.
However, Twynam Agriculture, who own Jemalong Station, have shown faith in the enviro-technology company and its CST innovations.
While much of the technology is commercially confidential, Mr Want was able to explain the key attributes to concentrated solar thermal power.
Unlike photovoltaic solar cells, CST uses an array of heliostats (mirrors) to reflect solar rays on to a central tower, which in turn heats a salted liquid substance to store the energy generated during the day.
“This company was founded on the basis that there are great opportunities in developing technology that can store renewable generated energy,” Mr Want said.
“CST’s great benefit is the capability to hold a large proportion of the energy generated.”
Mr Want said Vast Solar is currently preparing an environmental impact statement, which is necessary for state significant projects, and this would soon be lodged with the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.
The application and EIS will then be publicly exhibited for 30 days, with stakeholders able to make submissions.
Vast Solar say the 30MW project could create up to 100 jobs during its construction, with ongoing jobs in research, operations and maintenance.
Unlike other larger scale CST plants, in the US and Spain, the Vast Solar project is designed to minimise the impact on flora and fauna, Mr Want said.
“Vast Solar’s design uses low-profile towers – much like the typical lattice-steel frame towers used across Australia, small heliostats [mirrors] and small, compact arrays with a single and easily installed foundation system,” the company’s fact sheet explains.
Mr Want said more public information seminars will be held as the assessment of the project continues.
More information on the project is available at www.vastsolar.com.