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South Australia hosts “world’s first” solar methanol demo

South Australia hosts “world’s first” solar methanol demo
A Vast Solar concentrated solar power (CSP) module (photo courtesy Vast Solar).

In Australia, cleantech company Vast Solar Pty Ltd, a leading developer of concentrated solar thermal power (CSP), and the Solar Methanol Consortium have been selected to receive AU$19.48 million and EUR 13.2 million from a collaboration between the Australian and German Governments to develop a "world-first" green methanol demonstration plant, SM1, in Port Augusta, South Australia.

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Vast Solar is an award-winning Australian developer of concentrating solar thermal power technology. Its innovative modular tower solar array combines the best elements of molten salt towers and parabolic trough systems to deliver what it says is the world’s lowest-cost dispatchable, renewable energy for hot, dry climates.

Vast Solar is currently developing two CSP projects in Australia – the 30 MW VS1 in Port Augusta, South Australia (SA), and the 50 MW VS2 baseload solar hybrid in Mount Isa, Queensland (QLD).

The German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator (known as HyGATE) is a funding round with up to AU$50 million and EUR 50 million available to support four real-world pilot, trial, and demonstration projects along the hydrogen supply chain.

The Vast Solar and Fichtner GmbH & Co. KG Solar Methanol (SM1) project is one of the four recipients.

We’re excited to be able to announce these four hydrogen projects that demonstrate the benefit of global collaboration to achieve a new export industry in renewable hydrogen and push us further towards the goal of net zero emissions, said Darren Miller, CEO of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) on the funding announcement.

Versatile hydrogen derivative

Methanol is the most versatile hydrogen derivative which, if produced using clean energy, has the potential to decarbonize several hard-to-abate industries, including shipping and aviation.

Vast Solar leads the Solar Methanol Consortium in Australia as Principal Energy Partner alongside Germany-headed global engineering and consultancy group Fichtner GmbH & Co. KG leading in Germany and is supported by fellow Australian technology company Calix Ltd as Principal carbon dioxide (CO2) Supply Partner and the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI).

SM1 has the potential to supply the shipping and aviation industries with zero-emission fuel. This is a major step forward in helping to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors and we applaud the Australian and German Governments’ leadership. With the support of ARENA and the Australian government, Vast Solar has become a world leader in CSP, and today’s announcement has the potential to supercharge the domestic renewables industry, said Craig Wood, CEO of Vast Solar.

Calix’s Leilac technology enables the electrification of calcination and the efficient capture of unavoidable process CO2 emissions.

Calix’s Leilac technology, in partnership with Adbri, will be used to make zero-emissions lime for Adbri customers, using renewable electricity and efficient capture of unavoidable CO2 emissions from limestone. At the same time, Calix and Adbri are excited to work with the Solar Methanol Consortium to enable the supply of captured CO2 emissions to make green methanol. We look forward to the outcomes of the HyGATE project, which has the potential to further catalyze support for CO2 capture and to pioneer new green fuels for aviation and shipping, said Phil Hodgson, CEO, and Managing Director of Calix.

The demonstration project SM1 will produce 7 500 tonnes per annum of green methanol and the Consortium has attracted the interest of local and international off-takers, including major shipping companies and airlines.

The project will be a catalyst for a solar methanol industry in Australia, with the potential to export the fuel to Germany and other global markets, creating hundreds of highly-skilled jobs.

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