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Australia to host 50 MWh ‘solar hydro’ plant with storage

RayGen Resources has secured funding to build a 3 MW/50 MWh ‘solar hydro’ power plant that could become one of the largest, lowest-cost storage projects in Australia.

From pv magazine Australia 

RayGen Resources has secured AUD 27 million ($20.9 million) of funding to build a 3 MW/50 MWh solar hydro power plant with 17 hours of storage in Carwarp, in the Australian state of Victoria.

The project will demonstrate two new technologies: RayGen’s patented PV Ultra and its electro-thermal storage technology, for which a patent is pending. The company says these two technologies “aim to disrupt the economics of solar+storage while offering improved grid security and reliability.”

The Carwarp plant has attracted funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has allocated AUD 15 million to the project. AGL, Photon Energy, Schlumberger, and Chevron will also make “strategic investments.”

RayGen’s ‘solar hydro’ power plant features concentrated PV technology that 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 C and the other at close to 0 C, and the temperature difference is used to generate dispatchable electricity using ORC turbines.

RayGen has been operating this technology for more than two years in its 1 MW pilot project in Newbridge, Victoria. That project also received ARENA funding. It’s expected that with the larger scale of the Carwarp plant, RayGen will be able to provide the Low Emissions Technology Statement stretch goal of providing firmed renewables for under $100/MWh.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the innovative technology provides an opportunity to address Australia’s emerging longer-duration storage needs.

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“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,” Miller said.

Australia’s largest electricity generator, AGL, will be an offtaker for the project. It is also collaborating with RayGen on a feasibility study to determine whether the technology could be installed at AGL’s Liddell facility, a major coal-fired plant in New South Wales that is scheduled to begin decommissioning next year.

“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. 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,” said AGL Managing Director and CEO Graeme Hunt.

The project will export renewable electricity to the National Electricity Market (NEM) and will also participate in wholesale energy and Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) markets once operational. It will also provide 17 hours of storage to the West Murray grid, which is notoriously congested.

The Carwarp project will be wholly owned by RayGen and is expected to reach commercial operation within 12 months, with an operational design life of 30 years. In addition to the Carwarp project, money from RayGen’s AUD 27 million capital raising will go toward expanding the capacity of its module manufacturing line from 25 MW to 125 MW per annum.

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Source: pv magazine