Solar Thermal

Norway oil giant tips millions into Australian dispatchable “solar hydro” tech

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Australian concentrated solar and hydro storage technology outfit RayGen Resources has bagged a major new global investor, with Norwegian state-owned energy giant Equinor tipping $9 million into the Melbourne-based company’s latest investment round.

RayGen said on Monday that it had partnered with Equinor to close out the Series C capital raise, which had attracted a total of $55 million, including from Chevron Technology Ventures, the clean energy offshoot of US oil major, Chevron.

RayGen’s “dispatchable” solar solution combines its proprietary PV Ultra technology – which co-generates electricity and heat – with a tailored electro-thermal storage cycle, called “Thermal Hydro”, that uses existing industrial equipment to deliver high-performance, low cost electricity storage.

PV Ultra generates electricity and heat from sunlight focused onto a tower-mounted photovoltaic receiver. The PV Ultra receiver contains around 400 PV Ultra modules, each generating 2.5kW of electricity and 5kW of heat. The total is 1MW of electricity and 2MW of heat for a combined 3MW of power per PV Ultra field.

A 3MW/50MWh of demonstration of the technology is on track to be tested in Victoria’s north-west, backed by funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and a key partnership with major gen-tailer AGL Energy.

The company has also flagged much bigger plans – including aspirations to develop a 200MW solar plant with around 100MW/1000MWh storage – off the back a deal with Photon Energy.

RayGen said this week that the funds from the Series C investment round would be used to deliver the 50MWh flagship project near Carwarp in north western Victoria, which was “well underway” with commissioning scheduled for 2022.

The money would also be used to finance the establishment of a previously announced 100MW manufacturing line for RayGen’s PV Ultra modules, and to bring the company’s pipeline of one or more 1,000+MWh projects to financial close.

The $A9 million from Equinor Ventures, which remains subject to Australian Foreign Investment Review Board approval, adds to a previously announced $27 million in private funding from investors including AGL Energy, Photon Energy and Schlumberger New Energy.

The private funding has also been supported with $15 million of grant funding by ARENA, taking RayGen’s total Series C investment round to a total of $55 million, the company said.

Equinor’s investment will also give it a spot on RayGen’s board of directors, to help steer the company’s strategic development alongside two other recently appointed directors, Leonie Walsh and Schlumberger’s Tyler Durham.

“We see that RayGen has a unique value proposition of making solar energy truly dispatchable by integrating low cost, long duration storage with highly efficient solar power generation,” said Gareth Burns, Equinor Ventures vice president.

“We further believe that this combination will support a higher share of renewables in the power mix, which aligns well with Equinor’s ambitions and the energy transition at large,” Burns said.

RayGen CEO, Richard Payne, said the strategic partnership with Equinor Ventures was expected to bring tremendous value to the business.

“We are excited by their vision, support and depth of engagement to accelerate the deployment of our technology into a rapidly expanding market together with our other strategic partners,” Payne said.

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