Progress Made in Australia’s First Commercial Concentrated VS1 Solar Power facility

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Progress has been made towards the establishment of Australia’s first commercial concentrated VS1 solar power facility in Port Augusta through a recent collaboration. Vast energy has joined forces with Contratos y Diseños Industriales (CYD), an international design and manufacturing company, to expedite the initial design phase for the VS1 project. This project aims to create a 30MW/288MWh plant in South Australia.

Vast has announced that CYD will commence the initial design tasks for VS1, which involve the utilization of an innovative virtual model. This pioneering “dynamic digital twin,” known as the Avatar Model, will be employed by CYD to replicate the precise specifications of the thermal energy storage tanks containing molten salt at elevated temperatures within the project. This approach facilitates testing and simulation across various scenarios and conditions.

Vast has highlighted that this strategy will play a pivotal role in both problem detection and resolution, as well as in the enhancement of tank design and functionality. The process ensures thorough optimization before the tanks undergo manufacturing and installation.

Vast’s collaboration with CYD has encompassed the development of novel thermal storage tank designs, including the patented Flexitank design, which is currently under patent application.

Vast’s CEO, Craig Wood, stated that the comprehensive perspective provided by the Avatar Model, covering design, fabrication, construction, and operation of molten salt tanks, will further fortify the VS1 project. He noted that this innovative approach marks a significant advancement for Vast and the entire industry.

Operational date for the VS1 Solar Power facility

Recent advancements made on the VS1 project, which is on schedule to become operational in 2024, have been driven by the engagement of Worley’s Advisian in June. This collaboration aims to finalize basic engineering and front-end engineering design for the project.

Vast has introduced a unique approach to Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology, demonstrated through a 1.1MW pilot plant in Jemalong, NSW. This method distinguishes itself by utilizing modular arrays of solar towers and receivers to gather and store solar energy, converting it into electricity or heat.

Referred to as CSP 3.0 in comparison to prior technologies like parabolic trough and centralized tower systems, Vast’s approach involves the utilization of sodium as a heat transfer medium. This innovation claims to enhance the efficiency of the solar collection process while simultaneously reducing both capital and operational expenses.

Total cost for the VS1 project

Despite a $100 million grant promised by the federal government, Vast is also tasked with securing sufficient funding to cover the projected total cost of $203 million for the notably smaller VS1 project. Assistance has been extended by ARENA, which provided a $65 million grant in February to support Vast in this endeavor.

Additionally, Vast has secured a commitment of $40 million from ARENA and Germany for the VS1 project. This funding will support the establishment of a proposed solar methanol facility and hydrogen electrolyser, strategically located alongside VS1 in Port Augusta.

The ill-fated Aurora project, which was intended to be a 150MW, eight-hour plant, faced collapse several years ago due to the inability of US-based SolarReserve to secure sufficient funds. This project shares the same land earmarked for the development of the VS1 initiative, as reported by RenewEconomy.

The co-located VS1 solar methanol plant, referred to as SM1, will leverage the emissions-free dispatchable electricity and heat generated by VS1. The objective is to produce green methanol, serving as an environmentally sustainable fuel for shipping purposes.

Sergio Dávila of CYD remarked that the collaboration with Vast is pioneering within the CSP industry. He emphasized that the Avatar Model offers an opportunity to apply early-stage insights, ensuring the optimal performance of thermal energy storage systems.

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