Vast Solar completes financing on modular CSP plant; Nano-coated salt storage results support build-out

Our pick of the latest solar thermal news you need to know.

Australia's Vast Solar is set to build its first large-scale modular CSP plant, following a 1.1 MW pilot facility in operation since early 2018. (Image credit: Vast Solar)

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Vast Solar completes financing on 50 MW modular CSP-PV plant

Modular CSP tower developer Vast Solar has completed the financing for a new 50 MW CSP-PV plant in New South Wales, Australia, the company announced September 26.

The A$240 million project ($162.1 million) represents the first large-scale deployment of Vast Solar's innovative CSP plant design, which features multiple small towers and uses liquid sodium as heat transfer fluid (HTF). Vast Solar was seeking A$75 million of financing, including $50 million of equity investment for the plant and $25 million to fund the business for the next three years.

The 50 MW plant will include 30 MW of CSP and 10 hours of molten salt energy storage capacity and could be built within two years.

Since June 2018, Vast Solar has operated a 1.1 MWe pilot CSP plant in Jemalong, New South Wales, consisting of five modules and including three hours of storage capacity.

The Vast Solar CSP design uses a distributed sodium loop throughout the solar array to achieve higher HTF temperatures and higher power cycle temperatures than conventional central tower designs.

When built at scale, liquid sodium efficiencies, modular build savings and distributed control will lower the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of the design to below $50/MWh in locations with high direct normal irradiance (DNI) levels, Craig Wood, CEO of Vast Solar, told New Energy Update earlier this year.

       CSP tender prices, costs in 2010-2022

                               (Click image to enlarge)

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), January 2018. 

Large-scale arrays will be "cheaper than coal and gas-fired plants and other renewable energy storage technologies" and could open up new opportunities in areas with lower solar irradiance levels, Wood said.

“Vast Solar’s technology will make CSP commercially viable in locations that challenge other CSP technologies,” he said.

Other modular CSP developers are advancing towards commercial deployment.

U.S. developer 247Solar recently announced it will build its first fully-operational demonstration Brayton cycle CSP plant module at the Ouarzazate solar park in central Morocco.

Due online in the first half of 2020, the plant will have a capacity of 400kW and 10 to 13 hours of thermal energy storage.

247Solar is targeting a CAPEX of $5,900/kWe for its first 10 MW commercial system and predicts 1 GW of deployment could lower the CAPEX to $3,000/kWe, Bruce Anderson, CEO of 247Solar, told New Energy Update last month.

Nano-coated salt storage developer demonstrates scalability

Tests at SaltX Technology's pilot nano-coated salt storage facility have confirmed the "stability and scalability" of the design, the Swedish developer announced September 19.

Since April 2019, SaltX has tested its new storage medium at a 10 MWh facility in Berlin, Germany, owned by utility partner Vattenfall.

The tests have confirmed "good material performance and a scalable energy storage concept," SaltX said in a statement.

More specifically, energy efficiency of electrical power to heat was recorded at 72% to 85%, compared to a theoretical maximum of 92%, the company said.

The plant achieved an energy density (chemical) of approximately 500 kWh/ton and an additional 100 kWh/ton "sensible energy" can also be stored in the material, it said.

"Based on the tests carried out in this first-of-its-kind pilot plant with regards to both the overall process and material analyses, the nano-coated salt material can be effectively used as an energy storage medium in a plant of appreciably large-scale," SaltX said.

"In addition, the pilot plant demonstrates that the process for charging (dehydration) and discharging (hydration) of thermochemical energy embodied in the nano-coated material works acceptably and repeatably," it said.

SaltX will now look to "optimize the process and confirm the commercial viability in pre-commercial plants,” Carl-Johan Liner, the group's CEO, said.

New Energy Update