The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today announced $15 million in funding to RayGen Resources Pty Ltd (RayGen) to construct its first of a kind ‘solar hydro’ power plant comprising 4 MW of solar PV generation and 3 MW / 50 MWh (17 hours) of dispatchable storage capacity in north-west Victoria.
RayGen’s ‘solar hydro’ power plant consists of RayGen’s proprietary PV Ultra, a concentrating photovoltaic solar co-generation tower, combined with its patented electro-thermal storage. RayGen’s concentrated PV technology generates heat as a by-product, which is captured and used for thermal storage. The electro-thermal storage system consists of an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) turbine, industrial chillers and two insulated water-based thermal storage pits or reservoirs, each roughly the size of four Olympic size swimming pools. One of the reservoirs is kept at a temperature of 90 degrees and the other at close to 0 degrees, and the temperature difference is used to generate dispatchable electricity using ORC turbines.
RayGen’s ‘solar hydro’ technology offers a renewable, modular and scalable solution to the emerging need for longer duration storage that has been identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator in its Integrated System Plan.
The $30 million project includes this fully dispatchable renewable energy facility as well as a new manufacturing facility that will allow RayGen to prepare for forecast growth and expansion of its project pipeline in Australia.
RayGen expects that subsequent larger scale projects will achieve the Low Emissions Technology Statement stretch goal of providing firmed renewables for under $100 / MWh.
The demonstration scale facility will be located in Carwarp, Victoria near Mildura, and will export renewable electricity to the National Electricity Market (NEM). The project will participate in wholesale energy and Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) markets once operational, and is eligible for Large-scale Generation Certificates.
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AGL says the second stage is planned for its Liddell Power Station site in NSW.
The company has successfully completed a capital raise for $27 million in equity from parties including AGL, Schlumberger New Energy, Photon Energy, and Chevron Technology Ventures alongside new and existing investors. RayGen has also negotiated an offtake agreement for the project with AGL.
AGL interim managing director and CEO Graeme Hunt said AGL is excited to be working on this innovative project, which uses a combination of solar and hydro technology and which will help to deliver the next generation of energy supply.
“AGL is committed to leading the business of transition and developing the future of renewable energy storage at scale, ensuring Australian households and businesses have affordable, sustainable and reliable electricity,” Mr Hunt said.
“RayGen’s technology has the potential to provide the same capabilities as other long duration storage technologies at lower cost and with fewer geographical constraints.
“The system is powered by a field of smart, rotational mirrors whose concentrated solar energy is combined with the energy stored across two water reservoirs to create a ‘hot and cold’ solar hydro solution.
“The Carwarp plant will be able to deliver four megawatts (MW) of solar generation and 50 megawatt hours (MWh) of storage to produce electricity on demand – improving grid stability, as well as supplying reliable, synchronous power.
“We believe the technology can be just as successful in the Hunter region and a key feature of our plans to transition the Liddell site into an Energy Hub, alongside grid-scale batteries and a waste to energy facility.
“Building on more than 180 years of history, AGL has a proud heritage of investment and innovation and we believe Liddell could have an essential role in the energy transition.
“As we transition to a cleaner energy future and meet our Climate Statement commitments, we are looking to make reliable long duration storage combined with solar generation a reality by overcoming traditional barriers for variable, renewable energy deployment.”
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RayGen’s chief executive officer Richard Payne said two years ago AGL agreed to provide a vital ‘voice of customer’ into the design process for RayGen’s new storage product.
“AGL provided valuable insights that enhanced our technology offering, and AGL is now supporting deployment with an offtake and investment,” Mr Payne said.
“This innovative collaboration between a ‘home-grown’ Australian technology start-up and Australia’s premier energy company will help pave the way to a lowest cost, secure and decarbonised grid.”
The project builds on a feasibility study and development work supported by an ARENA grant of $3 million that was announced in March 2020.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the success of RayGen’s innovative technology provides an exciting opportunity to address Australia’s emerging longer duration storage needs.
“RayGen’s technology has many benefits for the energy market as we continue the energy system transformation being driven by renewables. Much like combining pumped hydro and a traditional solar farm, RayGen’s technology can provide longer duration firming for renewable energy generation. We are particularly interested in the potential for RayGen’s technology to deliver firmed renewable energy at a very competitive cost,” Mr Miller said.
“ARENA has been a strong supporter of RayGen for many years now and we are really pleased to be supporting an Australian company at the cutting edge of renewable energy innovation.”
ARENA previously supported RayGen with a total of $8.67 million in funding to develop its PV Ultra technology and build the 1 MW PV Ultra pilot project in Newbridge, Victoria. The pilot project has been operational for over two years powering a local mushroom farm.