New life looks set to be breathed into South Australia’s abandoned Aurora Solar Tower Project, and from a rather unlikely source, with thermal energy storage hopeful 1414 Degrees announcing plans to acquire the Australian assets of the US solar tower developer, SolarReserve.
In an ASX statement published on Friday, 1414 Degrees said it was set to acquire SolarReserve Australia II Pty Ltd, owner of the Aurora Solar Energy Project near Port Augusta and two solar PV development sites in New South Wales.
But the asset to watch is SolarReserve’s Port Augusta project, which had state government development approval for a 150MW concentrated solar thermal plant (CST) and a 70MW solar PV plant – a project the struggling US-based company was forced to abandon in April, after it was unable to raise finance.
1414 Degrees – a South Australian local – proposes to use the site to pilot its TESS-GRID technology, which it claims would deliver electricity firming services to similar scale as the solar power tower project (135MW of effective capacity and eight hours of storage).
The company said it would seek to vary or submit a new development application to provide up to 400MW of solar PV together with TESS-GRID technology with storage capacity that would be progressively scaled up to “several thousand MWh.”
This would be able to to supply “many hours of dispatchable electricity,” 1414 Degrees says, with spinning reserve from its turbines and a range of frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) to support grid stability.
It would also be able to buy and store renewable electricity generated elsewhere on the local network, strengthening firming services and earnings from market arbitrage.
“We will be using South Australian technology to create a large-scale, thermal energy storage plant near Port Augusta able to supply reliable power on demand to the national grid,” 1414 Degrees Executive Chairman Dr Kevin Moriarty said.
It’s a major move for the company which, since listing on the ASX in 2018, has signed up to a $3.2 million pilot project to install a GAS-TESS unit at an SA Water wastewater treatment plant in Glenelg, to store energy by burning gases produced in the treatment process and generate heat and electricity for the plant.
Its TESS technology stores electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon, at a cost it has said could be up to 10 times cheaper than lithium batteries.
In August, it announced a collaboration with sustainable agriculture pioneer Nectar Farms to test “SmartFarm” applications in the protected cropping greenhouses and industry, of its technology. The company is also investigating production of hydrogen using the excess heat from its turbines.
Moriarty said the site earmarked for the abandoned solar tower power project had several clear advantages for the development of 1414 Degree’s TESS-GRID solution, particularly in terms of transmission infrastructure.
“The unregulated high-voltage transmission line to the OZ Minerals Carrapateena and Prominent Hill mines is being constructed along the boundary of the Aurora Solar Energy Project, and provision has been made for a substation at the existing Aurora site with direct connection to the Davenport substation in Port Augusta,” he said.
Moriarty said his company would reopen negotiations with OzMinerals and ElectraNet as soon as the acquisition was complete.
“Davenport is part of the major transmission networks to Eyre Peninsula, Adelaide and the new interconnector to New South Wales,” he added.
Moriarty also points out that the Aurora project is currently not impacted by the marginal loss factors (MLF) that had constrained output from other renewable generators on the grid.
As for the finance for the project, which appears to be a big part of what brought SolarReserve’s plans undone, Moriarty said the new project would be developed and financed in the subsidiary company, under the management of 1414 Degrees.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from infrastructure and investment funds seeking to invest in the potential of our technology and this large solar farm will generate significant revenues while supporting the staged development of our large-scale energy storage technology.
“The advanced status of this project is expected to result in early revenues from energy sales. We will avoid high capital requirements by staging the development.”
The ASX-listed company is also proposing to offer its more than 3,000 shareholders the chance to directly invest in the Aurora Solar Energy Project alongside the institutional funds.
As for SolarReserve, RenewEconomy understands the sale means the US-based company will exit the Australian market entirely.
As we have reported on RE, the company has also been plagued by ongoing “teething” problems at its first and only completed solar tower and storage facility at Crescent Dunes in Nevada, which is now reportedly in danger of losing its main supply contract in Nevada. SolarReserve has also sold its development projects in Chile.