A $600 million solar thermal plant could start providing Queensland’s major Mount Isa mining province with low-carbon, on-demand power as early as 2023, under a deal struck between state-owned Stanwell Corporation and private firm Vast Solar.

An agreement signed between the pair provides $10 million of funding to study the feasibility of the 50 megawatt plant, which uses a promising clean energy technology that has yet to be proven at commercial scale in Australia.

The project, which Vast Solar unveiled last year, would use a combination of solar panels, battery storage, gas and innovative solar thermal technology developed by the company.

Mirrors and receiving towers would gather and store the sun’s energy, then use it to power engines that support the solar PV generation. A 15-minute battery, and 14.5 hours of storage using molten salt allows clean energy to be available 24 hours a day rather than just when the sun is shining. Eighty-five per cent of the output would be zero carbon, with the rest generated from gas.

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