Australian mining town picked for first large Concentrated Solar Power plant

Vast Solar in talks to build Concentrated Solar Power plant in Queensland.

Vast Solar is in talks to build a 50 MW hybrid Concentrated Solar Power -PV-gas plant in the off-grid Mount Isa mining town in Queensland, Australia, local media reported.

The A$600 million ($420.0 million) plant would combine Concentrating Solar Power with 14 hours of storage, PV, short duration battery storage, and fast response gas generators. Currently, Mount Isa customers reportedly pay around A$150/MWh for power supply from local gas-fired generation.

Vast Solar believes it can build the plant by 2023. If completed, the plant would be Australia’s first utility-scale Concentrated Solar Power plant.

Vast Solar’s modular solar thermal design uses small tower layout and a distributed sodium loop throughout the solar array to achieve higher heat transfer medium (HTM) and power cycle temperatures than conventional central tower designs.

Source: Geoscience Australia, 2016.

Queensland’s government also recently fast-tracked a plan to build a new power transmission link to Mount Isa from the coastal town of Townsville as part of COVID-19 recovery plans.

The new line could see Mount Isa become a major hub for solar power development.

Last November, Vast Solar told Reuters Events it was seeking mining partners to build Australia’s first large-scale CSP plant.

The facility would feature 30 to 50 MW of CSP capacity and long duration energy storage capacity, Craig Wood, CEO of Vast Solar, said.

Since June 2018, Vast Solar has operated a 1.1 MWe pilot plant in Jemalong, New South Wales. The A$24 million pilot plant consists of five modules and three hours of storage capacity and received A$9.9 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).