Thursday, 19 March 2020 12:36

Energy startup RayGen funded $3m by ARENA for ‘solar hydro’ power plant feability study Featured

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Melbourne based renewable energy startup RayGen has been allocated $3 million in funding by the Australian Renewable Agency (ARENA) to conduct a technical and commercial feasibility study for a 4 MW “solar hydro” power plant to be built in north-western Victoria.

In a claimed world first, RayGen is proposing to build a fully dispatchable renewable energy facility that will use their innovative concentrated solar PV technology known as PV Ultra and combine it with their Thermal Hydro technology to generate renewable energy and provide large scale energy storage.

The grid-scale power plant is proposed to be built in Carwarp near Mildura, capable of providing 4 MW of solar generation and 17 hours of storage, with RayGen expected to reach financial close and commence construction on the plant this year, with the aim to have the facility commissioned in 2021.

ARENA says the $6 million first phase will get the project to “financial close and shovel ready” for construction, and RayGen will be working with AGL and GHD on the initial phase which will include technical and commercial feasibility studies, commercial assessment, a connection agreement, offtake agreements, capital raising and a planning permit for a preferred site.

“RayGen has developed the innovative application of their existing PV Ultra technology and the new thermal storage technology. PV Ultra is a tower-mounted, concentrated solar PV technology that combines low-cost solar collection heliostats and high-efficiency solar conversion via PV cells, creating the ability to co-generate electricity and heat. The heat by-product is captured and used to boost the efficiency of the thermal storage element,” says ARENA

The thermal storage technology stores energy as a temperature difference between two water reservoirs, with the heat generated from the PV Ultra used to charge the hot reservoir, whilst the cold reservoir is cooled using an electric chiller supplied with electricity from PV Ultra and the grid.

The stored temperature difference will power an Organic Rankine Cycle engine to generate electricity with a round trip efficiency of 70%.

ARENA says the size of the storage reservoirs are readily scalable and the water will be recycled and reused.

“With RayGen’s project we’re seeing homegrown innovation in solar PV now being used to find new solutions for dispatchable renewable energy. RayGen’s solution could complement other more traditional forms of storage such as grid-scale batteries and pumped hydro,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller.

“With ARENA’s funding, RayGen is aiming to progress this project to be shovel ready by the end of this year and to prove its novel technology can be cost-competitive with batteries and pumped hydro.

“While this solar and thermal storage plant works similarly to a solar farm combined with a pumped hydro facility, the advantage of RayGen’s approach is that it can be deployed at a smaller scale and at a much lower absolute cost.”

“Australia’s energy transition will require storage solutions that can store power cost-effectively for hours, days or weeks and be deployed at large scale around the world,” said RayGen CEO Richard Payne.

“RayGen has developed an innovative solar-plus-storage product that captures sunlight with mirrors and stores energy in water. Our technology provides firm renewable power at low cost, while conserving natural resources and our environment.

“RayGen’s flagship 4 MW / 50 MWh plant is expected to offer storage at a fraction of the cost of recent battery projects. The project is in a renewable energy zone that has limited capacity to support pumped hydro. We will also be supplying synchronous power to the grid where it is critically needed in the West Murray region.

“We would like to thank ARENA and our project partners in AGL and GHD for their support on this exciting project.”

“AGL’s support for this project is consistent with our commitment to providing sustainable, secure and affordable energy for our customers and helping shape a sustainable energy future for Australia,” said AGL Interim Executive General Manager Wholesale Markets Dominique Van Den Berg.

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, and the pilot project has been operational for over two years powering a local mushroom farm.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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