Who is Vast Solar?
Vast Solar is an Australian company developing concentrating solar power (CSP) generation technology with integrated large-scale thermal energy storage.
Vast Solar has developed a low-cost concentrating solar power system to deliver CSP at a commercial cost, competitive with wind power, and with the additional flexibility and higher revenue generation capability available from integrated thermal energy storage.
Vast Solar has already constructed and operated three CSP research and demonstration facilities, and is currently constructing the ‘Jemalong Solar Thermal Pilot Plant’ – a 6MWth pilot CSP electricity generation plant, outside Forbes in Central Western NSW. The Pilot will be equipped with 3 hours’ thermal energy storage. It will be Australia’s only operating, grid-connected CSP plant with thermal energy storage.
Vast Solar has recently commenced planning for a commercial scale 30MWth CSP plant, with 4 hours’ thermal energy storage, also planned for a location near Forbes.
What is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Technology?
CSP technology produces electricity from the thermal energy of the sun, by making steam to drive a traditional steam turbine and electricity generator.
Solar energy is captured using heliostats (mirrors) that track the sun to reflect the sun’s rays onto a thermal receiver. In Vast Solar’s CSP system, there are multiple thermal receivers, connected via a system of pipes.
A heat transfer fluid is held in a storage tank from where it is pumped through the receivers, heated to very high temperatures (~600C) and is then piped to a central thermal energy storage tank. When needed, the hot fluid is used to heat water to create steam in a boiler, and this steam then drives a traditional steam turbine and generator, which exports electricity to the grid.
What is thermal energy storage?
Thermal energy storage available with CSP systems captures solar power in the form of heat – a very efficient, large-scale and cost-effective storage method.
The sun’s thermal energy can be saved for days or weeks, to be released for use in electricity generation at times of highest market value, day or night. Thermal energy storage also enables CSP systems to provide stable, reliable solar power for mining and other large-scale industrial operations.