Fresh from creating a world record back in June, we’re taking our solar savvy to the bush.
At a time when electricity demand is falling across much of Australia, the opposite has been true for many mining centres in remote areas, where energy usage has been increasing.
CSIRO’s solar thermal research hub in Newcastle, New South Wales.
These regions enjoy some of the bluest skies in the world, making them ideal for the use of solar thermal technology.
The problem is that at the moment the cost is too high.
Solar-thermal tower technology uses many mirrors (heliostats) that track the sun, concentrating its energy by reflecting light towards a receiver fixed on top of a tower. However conventional heliostats are expensive to install in remote areas due to the large number of components that need to be assembled on site, leading to higher electricity costs.
CSIRO technology has been used to reduce energy consumption at the Rockefeller Center in New York. (Click to enlarge.)
By changing the way heliostats are manufactured and controlled, our solar scientists are aiming to avoid the high cost of installation and maintenance in remote areas, providing an affordable renewable energy solution for the Aussie outback.
But that’s only part of the story.
We’re also working to improve the other components of the overall parts of the solar thermal system such as receivers, turbines and, perhaps most importantly, storage. Thermal energy can be stored relatively cheaply compared to some other technologies, so there is great potential for large scale power generation regardless of when the sun is shining.
Solar electricity can be transported through the grid from our country’s sunniest areas into cities and suburbs, and by making use of storage this can happen at the times when demand (and prices) are highest. This can have a positive impact on electricity prices by reducing peak demand caused by the use of air-conditioners on hot days.
To find out more about our solar thermal research, check out our website.
This three-year heliostat project is supported through $1 million of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). CSIRO will work in partnership with Diver Consolidated Industries and RioGlass Solar on the project.
Media contact: Eamonn Bermingham, telephone: 08 6436 8627 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org