Articles originally published in pv magazine.

Australian concentrated solar thermal power technology developer Vast Solar today announced a collaboration with United States-headquartered sodium-ion battery manufacturer Natron Energy.

The collaboration includes a Letter of Intent (LOI) to purchase up to 13,500 units of Natron’s sodium-ion batteries for use on Vast Solar 2 (VS2) clean energy development in Mount Isa. The 50 MW North West Queensland Hybrid Power Project combines a PV system for daytime power generation, concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) storage for night-time supply, and large-scale batteries and gas engines for grid firming. The integrated hybrid generator will deliver uninterrupted power 24 hours a day.

VS2 will follow VS1, Vast Solar’s first utility-scale CSP project, which is being developed in Port Augusta, South Australia, and has received Australian government backing of up to $110 million in concessional finance.

Vast Solar and Natron will make information and data collected during the Mount Isa project available to both companies while they also evaluate future projects. Vast Solar has a strong project pipeline and is working on expanding it across key markets in Australia, U.S., the Middle East, Europe and Latin America.

Integrating energy storage solutions helps overcome intermittency challenges of renewable baseload power, providing immediate energy when it’s needed.

Vast Solar’s Australian-made modular tower CSP technology generates clean, low-cost, dispatchable power, capturing and storing the sun’s energy during the day to generate industrial process heat and electricity.

The process works by reflecting sunlight by the heliostats (mirrors); the concentrated sunlight heats up the sodium as it passes through receivers; heat is transferred from sodium to the molten salt heat transfer fluid and stored in hot salt tanks. The resulting heat can be converted into electricity as needed.

In sunny locations, CSP will play an important role in the decarbonisation of power markets and in enabling increased penetration of variable renewable energy technologies such as photovoltaics and wind. With an overall objective of developing a sustainable power sector that enables renewables as a baseload, there is strong alignment between Natron and Vast Solar.

Natron’s batteries, which store sodium ions in electrode materials based on Prussian blue materials, offer higher power density, longer service life, and unique safety characteristics over other battery technologies. Natron leverages existing lithium-ion manufacturing facilities for production, and its supply chain requires zero lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel, or other difficult-to-obtain minerals.

“Natron’s sodium-ion battery technology enables Vast Solar to maximise generation while sustaining baseload capacity and providing around-the-clock power,” Vast Solar Chief Executive Officer Craig Wood said. “Supplementing our CSP capabilities with Natron’s sodium-ion energy storage will enable us to achieve dependable, zero-emission power.”

Natron co-founder and CEO Colin Wessells said: “We are excited to advance this collaboration with Vast Solar. Using Natron’s batteries to supplement CSP power generation will enable Vast Solar to increase reliability and produce a steady stream of clean electricity.”