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Australian advanced CSP company Vast to list on NYSE through SPAC deal

Vast’s CSP system uses a modular tower design and a sodium loop for heat transfer to efficiently capture and store solar heat for conversion into clean and renewable electricity and heat.

Australian concentrated solar power company Vast intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange as the firm aims to scale its next-generation technology.

Vast has entered into a business combination agreement with Nabors Energy Transition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company. The merged entity is expected to be listed under the ticker symbol VSTE, while remaining headquartered in Australia.

Founded in 2009, Vast’s proprietary CSP system uses a modular tower design and a sodium loop for heat transfer to efficiently capture and store solar heat for conversion into clean and renewable electricity and heat.

The company’s system is designed to deliver greater efficiency, simplified permitting, faster construction, and more reliable operations when compared to conventional central tower CSP plants.

“Vast’s CSP technology collects and stores the sun’s energy during the day for delivery at any time, making around-the-clock, clean power a reality,” Vast CEO Craig Wood said in a statement. “While the cost of wind and PV solar has declined significantly, their intermittency remains a key challenge that can only be addressed with storage.”

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Vast’s proprietary CSP technology reflects and concentrates the sun’s rays onto solar receivers that capture the sun’s energy as heat in sodium, then transfer the heat to molten salt for high-density storage.

The stored heat can then be used to generate dispatchable clean power at night by generating steam for a turbine, produce heat directly for industrial purposes, or to deliver a mix of power and heat for the efficient production of green fuels such as green hydrogen, green methanol, sustainable aviation fuels, among others.

Vast believes its CSP technology offers several advantages over conventional CSP technologies, including the use of sodium as the heat transfer fluid. This unlocks the company’s modular tower design, enables superior thermal process control, and avoids the need to empty out and restart the solar receivers on a daily basis due to the risk of the molten salt freezing, as is the case with central tower technology, they said.

When compared to parabolic trough systems, sodium’s higher operating temperature relative to mineral oil delivers more efficient power cycles and cheaper energy.

Vast also sees an advantage in its modular system to make better use of the heliostats (mirrors), achieving a 10-20% efficiency gain versus central tower designs. That removes the single-point-of-failure risk inherent in central tower technology, the company said. Additionally, each module’s towers are smaller and less complex making them easier to permit, build, operate, and maintain.

Vast’s technology was field validated and proven at the company’s Forbes, Australia demonstration plant. The 1.1 MW facility successfully synchronized with the grid in 2018 and operated for nearly three years.

Commercial Project Pipeline

The SPAC deal will provide Vast with capital to progress its multi-GW pipeline of projects, including four projects in various stages of development:

  • VS1 Port Augusta – Funded by up to AUD $110 million in concessional financing from the Australian Government, and up to AUD $65 million non-dilutive grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Vast is developing a 30 MW/288MWh CSP reference plant in Port Augusta, Australia. Utilizing CSP v3.0 technology, the facility will produce dispatchable renewable electricity on demand for 8 hours overnight.
  • SM1 Port Augusta – The SM1 plant, a world-first green methanol commercial demonstration plant that is designed to produce 20 tons per day of solar methanol, will be fueled in part by the heat and electricity produced by the co-located VS1 Port Augusta reference plant. SM1 is being funded in part by the German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator, or HyGATE, via an approximately AUD $40 million non-dilutive grant.
  • VS2 Mount Isa – The 50 MW North West Queensland Hybrid Power Project will combine a solar PV system for daytime power generation, CSP storage for night-time supply, and large-scale batteries and gas turbines for grid firming.
  • VS3 Port Augusta – Permitting is already in place for an expected 150MW CSP plant that will be built on the same site as VS1 and SM1 following successful completion of those projects.

Subject to certain conditions, affiliates of Nabors and AgCentral Energy each committed up to $15 million of capital in a combination of a pre-closing convertible note financing and a private placement of ordinary shares of Vast at closing. The company is targeting a minimum of USD 35 million of additional capital from other third-party investors.

The implied pro forma equity value of Vast is expected to be between USD $305 million and USD $586 million depending on the level of redemptions. Vast’s existing management team will continue to lead the company following the completion of the transaction.

Vast is expected to remain headquartered in Sydney, Australia.

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