ARENA funds $3mn for potential solar-hydro plant in Victoria

By Allen Jack

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced it will be funding RayGen Resources with A$3mn for an exciting green energy project.

The first stage will be to conduct research and test the commercial feasibility of developing a 4MW solar-hydro electric plant in northwestern Victoria.

Startup company RayGen is committed to accelerating the global transition to renewable energy by developing state-of-the-art technology for usage in large-scale infrastructure projects. 

The company has developed unique ‘PV Ultra’ tech which is able to simultaneously generate electricity from light and heat at an energy efficiency of almost 90%. The company’s own estimate places PV Ultra panels as 4,000 times more powerful than regular PVs.

RayGen claims that its solution offers the same advantages of hydroelectricity, yet with far fewer operational constraints, lower costs and lower risks. When this is factored into PV Ultra’s easy scalability, RayGen considers itself pivotal in solar power’s future.

Putting the pieces together

Despite the innovativeness of PV Ultra, RayGen’s scope for pushing the frontiers of renewable energy are not yet exhausted. The proposed solar-hydro plant in Victoria could be the world’s first combination of two clean energy processes.

RayGen’s Thermal Hydro technology is capable of storing energy for approximately 10 hours (versus a regular battery storage of one to four hours), and it is by combining the two that both it and ARENA hope to create a powerful renewable energy resource.

The tower-mounted PV Ultra panels will generate electricity, whilst Thermal Hydro will store the energy as a temperature difference between two water reservoirs: one heated by the PV Ultra electricity generation and the other chilled by refrigeration also powered by the panels.

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If given the green-light, this project presents the opportunity to create and store large volumes of clean power generated from a self-sustaining cycle. 

Homegrown innovation

Darren Miller, CEO of ARENA, praised the value of the project and predicted its important application in ensuring Australian power demands continue to be met. 

“With RayGen’s project we’re seeing homegrown innovation in solar PV now being used to find new solutions for dispatchable renewable energy. RayGen’s solution could complement other more traditional forms of storage such as grid-scale batteries and pumped hydro.

“While this solar and thermal storage plant works similarly to a solar farm combined with a pumped hydro facility, the advantage of RayGen’s approach is that it can be deployed at a smaller scale and at a much lower absolute cost,” he said.

Meantime, Richard Payne, CEO of RayGen, was already considering what more could be done to hasten Australia’s goal of lessening its reliance on fossil fuels.

“Australia’s energy transition will require storage solutions that can store power cost-effectively for hours, days or weeks and be deployed at large scale around the world.

“RayGen has developed an innovative solar-plus-storage product that captures sunlight with mirrors and stores energy in water. Our technology provides firm renewable power at low cost, while conserving natural resources and our environment.”

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