Vast Solar inks sodium-ion battery deal with Natron Energy

Aerial image of one Vast Solar's solar thermal power plant (VS1)
Image: Vast Solar

Australian developer of concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) technology Vast Solar has announced its collaboration with Natron Energy, a global leader in the manufacturing of sodium-ion batteries.

Vast Solar will purchase up to 13,500 units of Natron’s sodium-ion batteries for use on Vast Solar 2 (VS2) in Mount Isa. The 50MW North West Queensland Hybrid Power Project combines a solar photovoltaic system for daytime power generation, CSP thermal storage for nighttime supply, and large-scale batteries and gas engines for grid firming. The integrated hybrid generator will deliver uninterrupted power 24 hours a day.

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VS2 will follow VS1, Vast Solar’s first utility-scale CSP project, which is being developed in Port Augusta, South Australia, and has received Australian Government backing of up to $110 million in concessional finance.

Vast Solar and Natron will make information and data collected during the Mount Isa project available to both companies while they also evaluate future projects. Vast Solar has a strong project pipeline and is working on expanding it across key markets in Australia, USA, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America.

Integrating energy storage solutions helps overcome intermittency challenges of renewable baseload power, providing immediate energy when it’s needed. Vast Solar’s Australian-made modular tower CSP technology generates clean, low-cost, dispatchable power, capturing and storing the sun’s energy during the day to generate industrial process heat and electricity. The process works by reflecting sunlight by the heliostats (mirrors); the concentrated sunlight heats up the sodium as it passes through receivers; heat is transferred from sodium to the molten salt heat transfer fluid, and stored in hot salt tanks. The resulting heat can be converted into electricity as needed.

In sunny locations, CSP will play an important role in the decarbonisation of power markets and in enabling increased penetration of variable renewable energy technologies such as photovoltaics and wind. With an overall objective of developing a sustainable power sector that enables renewables as a baseload, there is strong alignment between Natron and Vast Solar.

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Natron’s batteries, which store sodium ions in electrode materials based on Prussian blue materials, offer higher power density, longer service life, and unique safety characteristics over other battery technologies. Natron leverages existing lithium-ion manufacturing facilities for production, and its supply chain requires zero lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel, or other difficult-to-obtain minerals.

Vast Solar CEO Craig Wood said, “Natron’s sodium-ion battery technology enables Vast Solar to maximize generation while sustaining baseload capacity and providing around-the-clock power. Supplementing our CSP capabilities with Natron’s sodium-ion energy storage will enable us to achieve dependable, zero-emission power.”

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