Vast Renewables and Nabors Energy Transition Corp.'s (NETC) Dec. 18 merger, first announced Feb. 14, transforms NETC into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vast in an effort to take the energy transition to the public market.

NETC, a Nabors special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), was created with the goal of raising capital in order to merge with Vast and to further venture investments and internal technology development for clean and scalable energy technologies. The merger backs Vast’s development of concentrated solar power (CSP) systems to generate, store and send carbon-free electricity and industrial heat.

In the 10 months since the announcement, Vast was able to secure an additional $11 million in funding from EDF Australia and up to $10 million in funding from Canberra Airport Group.

“Vast’s innovative and proven CSP v3.0 technology, advanced project pipeline and the substantial potential to reduce emissions in industries that have historically been difficult to decarbonize, provide the elements for a successful business combination with NETC,” Anthony G. Petrello, chairman, president and CEO of NETC, said in a press release.

Vast’s CSP v3.0 uses a specially-made modular sodium loop to capture and convert solar heat into energy. The system reflects and concentrates sun rays onto multiple solar receivers that capture solar energy as heat in sodium. The heat is then transferred to molten salt for high density storage.

“Our modular tower system, where we’ve got mirrors pointing at each tower and then the tower is linked together, allows us to gather that energy in a far more cost-effective way than what previous CSP technologies have done. We use sodium first, then we store [the thermal energy] in salt,” Vast CEO Craig Wood told Hart Energy.

Once the energy has been stored in the salt, it can be used to create steam to spin a turbine and create dispatchable electricity to deliver a mix of power and heat for the efficient production of fuels such as green hydrogen.

Wood Craig
Craig Wood, CEO of Vast Renewables. (Source: Vast Renewables)

Vast also received funding for two reference plants in Port Augusta, South Australia, created to demonstrate the effectiveness of its solutions to investors.

Vast Solar 1, or VS1 “is a 30-megawatt steam turbine with eight hours of molten salt storage—effectively a plant that's designed to gather sunlight, gather energy during the day, store it and then about half an hour before the sun goes down, spin the turbine up and generate electricity into the evening” during peak demand, Wood said.

VS1 is receiving support from the Australian government with up to $75 million in concessional financing. The project will also receive $44 million in a non-dilutive equity grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). VS1 is Vast‘s first utility-scale concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) plant, generating zero-emissions electricity and heat, including to power the 10MW electrolyzer in SM1, Vast’s other reference plant.

The other reference plant Vast is building, called SM1, is a solar methanol plant designed to create green methanol, which has the potential to decarbonize several hard-to-abate industries, including aviation and shipping.

“We capture the CO2 … taking some of the heat from our thermal storage and coupling that with some of the nighttime power from our CSP plant,” Wood said. “Then we use just grid source daytime power for the rest and we put all of that in mix and we create green methanol.”

The SM1 project produces hydrogen using a water electrolyzer. The hydrogen is then combined with captured CO2 from a nearby green cement plant and will be used to synthesize up to 7,500 tonnes per annum of green methanol. The project will receive $13 million from the Australian government and $14.4 million from the German government as part of the HyGATE collaboration between the two countries.

While the SPAC transaction was initially expected to provide Vast with gross proceeds of up to $351 million, Vast reported generating $60 million.

The combined entity will be named Vast and is expected to be listed on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “VSTE” while remaining headquartered in Australia.