Sep 30, 2020

QUT research adds shine to $600m energy project

QUT research adds shine to  $600m energy project QUT research associate Giovanni Picotti in field studies at Mount Isa.

Vast Solar has joined forces with the Queensland University of Technology to help optimise its planned $600 million clean energy project in Mount Isa.

The North West Queensland Hybrid Power Plant will use concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) technology based on mirrors. This will be integrated with a solar PV system, a large-scale battery and gas engines.

Vast Solar said the new plant’s performance would be affected by the cleanliness of the solar mirrors, and the selection of the plant materials.

It is working with the QUT Operations & Maintenance (O&M) and Advanced Materials (AM) teams, which are funded by the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI).

Led by QUT Professor Ted Steinberg, Flinder’s University Professor David Lewis and QUT’s engineering asset management expert Dr Michael Cholette, the O&M group has already developed techniques for predicting the soiling rate of solar mirrors (how fast the mirrors get dirty), assessing soiling impact on plant performance, and optimising cleaning activities.

The second group, led by advanced materials experts Professor Steinberg and Associate Professor Geoffrey Will, is assisting Vast Solar in solving fundamental material compatibility issues that have important implications for critical parts of the plant.

Vast Solar product anager Dr Bruce Leslie said the company was pleased to see the technology being improved through that application of QUT’s work.

“We have been using local contractors to help us conduct an ongoing feasibility study which is looking very promising,” he said.

“Interestingly, the QUT team found the soiling rates are significantly below that experienced at other CSP sites around the world, reinforcing Mount Isa as an excellent location for this power plant.”

Vast Solar says the North West Queensland Hybrid Power Plant will deliver secure, reliable, low cost and low emission power to Mount Isa 24 hours a day, for 365 days a year.  

It is expected to produce 85 per cent clean energy and use more than 80 per cent less fuel than current gas-fired generators.

Vast Solar says lower fuel costs and the plant’s 30-year operational life mean the $600 million upfront investment will deliver significantly cheaper energy than alternate baseload generation options over the lifetime of the project.