Jemalong’s sun power is now connected after four years under construction

Vast Solar has announced that its 1.1MWe (megawatts electric) concentrated solar thermal power pilot plant, under development since 2014, has been successfully commissioned.The solar array at Jemalong.CEO Craig Wood says the plant is demonstrating a new, world leading type of solar thermal technology as it sends electricity, generated from the sun’s heat, directly to the Forbes region via the West Jemalong substation.

Large-scale thermal storage will be incorporated in future Vast Solar plants, providing the capacity to store and dispatch renewably generated electricity at any time of day – day and night.

It’s a national first.

“We are getting excellent results from our testing program and there is strong local and international interest in our technology,” Mr Wood said.

“We are very grateful to the Forbes Council, Forbes and Parkes businesses and the local community for their interest in, and support for, what we are doing.

“Local people and businesses have made very important contributions to building the pilot plant and have helped us to get to where we are today.”

The technology uses liquid sodium as a heat transfer fluid. The system is designed as a series of modules, each a set of mirrors directing the sun’s heat onto thermal receivers.

With successful commissioning and regular operation of the plant, Vast Solar’s team is now focused upon testing and analysing plant performance.

Test results to date are very impressive. Particularly exciting is the excellent process control that is being achieved at elevated solar temperatures, Vast Solar says.

“The whole team at Vast Solar is focused on the testing program and analysis of testing results which will inform further design and operational refinements to optimise the performance of every part of our CSP system,” Mr Wood said.

“We’ve worked through a number of research and development challenges along the way but are pleased to now have the only operating CSP plant in Australia.”

Vast Solar’s team includes local people as well as people who have travelled to work with Vast Solar from inter-state and overseas. Operations manager David Dyson brings more than 30 years of experience from power generation facilities in Victoria (Hazelwood) to Vast Solar. He has been joined by Wayne Field, also from Victoria, to manage the power block and turbine operations of the pilot plant.

Kurt Drewes, Project Director, joined the company in early 2017 bringing his extensive knowledge and experience of CSP technologies and systems to the company. Kurt, his wife Samantha and their daughters Elizabeth and Alexandra, relocated from South Africa to join the Vast Solar team. Kurt is spearheading development of Vast Solar’s next plant, a 30MWe plant with up to 10 hours of storage.

Forbes Advocate, September 4 2018.