Jemalong solar thermal station to power ahead

The first 1.1MW electrical concentrated solar thermal (CST) power plant in Australia has begun construction, a project taken on by technology developer Vast Solar.

Taking place in Jemalong, near Forbes in New South Wales, the project will generate and deliver power on demand for businesses that fit inside the proposed grid.

At full capacity, the Jemalong power station will be able to supply electricity to around 400 homes, however this is only to estimate its full power, as it will be for industrial use, producing intermittent electricity as required.

The thermal station will be the first of its kind to utilise the MACCSol air-cooled condenser, a cooling cycle intentionally designed for concentrated solar thermal power plants that uses no water, making it ideal for typically dry locations.

The project, which will be connected to the Essential Energy distribution network comprises five low profile solar arrays, with a total of 3500 heliostats (mirrors), five towers each less than 30m high with thermal energy receivers, and a thermal energy storage system providing enough energy for three hours’ full power operation, day or night.

Although the pilot plant will be primarily a research and demonstration plant, it will have an electrical output sufficient to power about 400 average homes.

Vast Solar’s founder and chief technology officer James Fisher said the technology would bring significant economic benefits to the Forbes and broader Central West region, including employment, business tourism and use of local services such as engineering, accounting, and construction services.

“Experience from the US and Europe shows up to 70 per cent of the economic value of inputs into a CST plant stays in the local area. This presents a huge opportunity for regional Australia; Central Western NSW being a perfect example,” Mr Want said, as reported by The Australian.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said, “Vast Solar’s technology progression and advancement along the commercialisation pathway demonstrates the value of this investment and important role ARENA plays in developing the energy infrastructure of the future.”

The project will receive $5 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and more than half the cost will come from private Australian and European investors.

Vast Solar is also considering the development of a 30MW facility to provide four hours of storage, while also investigating the potential in overseas ventures in Africa, India, the Middle East and the Americas.

After commencing in April, construction is due for completion in late 2014, with testing and data collection scheduled for mid-2015. It is hoped that employing and observing these new systems will better inform similar projects in the future.