Australian concentrated solar company Vast Solar has teamed up with another local thermal storage hopeful 1414 Degrees in the latest attempt to build a large scale solar thermal and storage plan in Port August, South Australia.
The Sydney-based Vast Solar will acquire 50% of the shares in Silicon Aurora, a subsidiary of 1414 Degrees and will jointly operate the Aurora Energy Project, which will feature a combination of solar thermal, PV, and battery technologies.
The original Aurora project was to have been built by US company SolarReserve, but its $750 million proposal for a 150MW solar tower power plant with eight hours of storage fell by the wayside after it failed tis secure funding, despite being offered $110 million of federal funding set aside in March 2017.
In late 2019, 1414 Degrees bought up the Australian assets of SolarReserve, including the rights to the failed Aurora CSP project, which had secured state approvals for development.
Its own plans to resurrect the project have been evolving over the last few years, with 1414 Degrees weighing up a handful of design plans, including the potential to pilot its silicon-based thermal energy storage technology SiBox.
However, uncertainty around investment has plagued the plans. In the span of only four months, Ovida Infrastructure decided to invest in the project last December, but then in April revised its strategic priorities and pulled out.
Current plans for the project, however, expect to see the development of a 140MW 1- 2- hour battery energy storage system during stage 1, pending a 2023 financial investment decision (FID).
Vast Solar, meanwhile, itself won federal government backing in April this year to build a 20MW Concentrated Solar Power project with up to 12 hours of storage near Port Augusta, supported by a renewed promise of $110 million in funding from then federal energy minister Angus Taylor.
Image: Vast Solar
Vast intends to use the same modular tower technology that the company says it has successfully demonstrated at Jemalong in NSW, which uses sodium as the heat transfer fluid.
“As per recent comments from the federal energy minister and AEMO, dispatchable renewable energy capacity is what is required to curb the high prices currently being experienced in Australian energy markets,” said Craig Wood, CEO of Vast Solar.
Wood said the companies would be working with the federal government and ARENA to finalise funding for the project, and with state and local governments and other partners to expedite the Aurora project.
“The transaction brings together two highly innovative Australian companies that share a vision for Aurora’s development as a long-term renewable energy project in Port Augusta,” added 1414 Degrees CEO Matt Squire.
“In addition to accelerating the development of our Stage 1 BESS, the Aurora site may also act as a showcase for the establishment of exciting renewable technologies being developed by Vast Solar and 1414 Degrees.”
Joshua S. Hill is a Melbourne-based journalist who has been writing about climate change, clean technology, and electric vehicles for over 15 years. He has been reporting on electric vehicles and clean technologies for Renew Economy and The Driven since 2012. His preferred mode of transport is his feet.