In an important breakthrough for the energy transition, concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) projects, such as those being developed by Vast Solar, can operate as synchronous condensers even when the CSP is not generating by using Doosan Škoda Power turbines with a clutch.

This development enables Vast Solar CSP plants to deliver continuous low-cost carbon-free electricity plus system security to support increased PV and wind update at negligible incremental cost, making it an economically compelling catalyst driving clean energy uptake.

To date, grid stability services have been provided by turbines in coal and gas fired power plants. However, as thermal synchronous generators retire, new sources of these essential security services are required, and at an accelerating rate as intermittent PV and wind produce a larger share of the world’s energy. Additionally, stability services will be critical in large-scale green hydrogen projects and subsea electricity export projects such as Sun Cable (Australia – Singapore) and Xlinks (Morocco – UK).

Synchronous condensers, which are machines with a large rotating mass that spin at a speed proportional to the grid frequency, are one option for the provision of such services. However, they do not produce electricity, instead consuming a small amount of energy.

To generate power, CSP uses turbines like those at the heart of coal and gas fired power plants. A clutch can be added to disengage the generator, which remains spinning, from the turbine when it is not generating. The spinning generator then acts as a synchronous condenser, providing ongoing system strength, inertia and voltage control services to support intermittent renewable energy such as solar PV and wind. Similar clutches have been used on Tasmanian turbines, enabling hydro generators to operate as synchronous condensers.

Today’s development means Vast Solar CSP plants will provide both continuous carbon-free energy and grid services to support PV and wind uptake without the need for additional synchronous condensers. By comparison, four synchronous condensers were recently installed in South Australia at a cost of $166 million, raising the limit on PV and wind generation from around 1.3 GW to a maximum of 2.5 GW but providing zero incremental generation.

Craig Wood, CEO of Vast Solar, said:

“The ability of Vast Solar plants to act as synchronous condensers when not generating creates great value in the transition to clean energy. Our plants generate continuous carbon-free electricity and they provide grid stability services to support the increased uptake of PV and wind.”

 “Alongside the potential for job creation and multibillion dollar export opportunities, it is further evidence that Vast Solar CSP is an ideal replacement for coal generating capacity as it exits the grid”

About Vast Solar

Vast Solar is an Australian company that, with support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), has developed world-leading solar thermal generation and storage technology to deliver low-cost renewable energy that is reliable, controllable and dispatchable. Vast Solar’s CSP system is smart, modular and highly cost effective to construct and operate. Vast Solar’s significant contribution to the progress of CSP globally has been recognised by the International Energy Agency’s SolarPACES 2019 Technical Innovation Award.

About Doosan Škoda Power

Doosan Škoda Power is a leading supplier of advanced power generation systems, components and services. Alongside the production of its own turbines, Doosan Škoda Power specialises in turbine retrofits and modernisation of existing installed equipment manufactured by all global producers, along with commissioning, long-term service and supply of spare parts. Services provided to customers worldwide are individually tailor-made.