July 22, 2020 Read More →

Australian company planning to build 50MW 24/7 solar project in Queensland

Renew Economy:

Australian solar thermal developer Vast Solar has unveiled plans to take its technology into the mainstream, unveiling a $600 million proposal to build a “baseload” solar plant in Mt Isa that will combine solar thermal, solar PV, battery storage and fast-acting gas generators.

The plan, being supported and advised by Energy Estate, is to build a plant that will provide 50MW of continuous 24/7 power for Mt Isa, making up for the imminent closure of the Mica Creek gas plant and positioning itself for further developments should the Copperstring 2.0 transmission link is built between the mining city and Townsville.

Vast Solar has been operating a small , award-winning 1MW pilot plant at Jemalong near Forbes in western NSW for the last two and a half years, and recently passed up an opportunity to build a full scale commercial plant in the region because the solar resource wasn’t quite good enough. (It sold it to Genex Power which is building a solar PV plant instead). In Mt Isa, Vast Solar CEO Craig Wood says, there is a solar resource that is the second best in the world behind the Atacama Desert in Chile, and an isolated grid where consumers have to, quite literally, supply their own gas, give it to the local gas generator to burn and then buy the electricity back at sky-high prices.

The North West Queensland Hybrid Power Project will be the biggest hybrid plant in Australia, and will combine 60MW of solar PV and a 52MW battery storage facility with 10 minutes storage – which will provide the bulk of daytime power- and the 50MW solar thermal facility with more than 14 hours of storage, with back up from the reciprocating gas engines if needed.

The battery has low level of storage because its major role is to balance out impacts of clouds and the like, and fill in the gap if gas generators need to be fired up. About half the total output will come from solar thermal, around one third from the solar PV and battery, and 15 per cent from the gas engines.

The $600 million ticket price may seem sky high for just 50MW of baseload capacity, but Wood says the output will be delivered at a significant discount to the current gas-fired generation, which is probably costing local customers around $150 a megawatt hour – more than twice the average price of the main grid. “$600 million does sound like a lot. It is a lot,” Wood says. “But what happens with the economics of concentrated solar thermal and solar PV are similar. Their costs are all up front. You can get lower capital costs from gas generators, but then you spend $2.1 billion for the cost of gas over the next 30 years.”

[Giles Parkinson]

More: Vast plans $600m “baseload” solar thermal plant for Mt Isa

Comments are closed.