CSIRO solar tower technology profiled in The Australian

Wes Stein, CSIRO’s Solar Thermal Power Leader, features in an article in today’s edition of the Australian. The piece profiles our solar tower facilities as well as giving an overview of concentrated solar thermal technologies and their place in the Australian energy mix. James McGregor, also of CSIRO, and Mark Twidell of the Australian Solar Institute were also interviewed for the article.

From the article:

[T]he new frontier for solar is in the area of concentrated solar thermal, where mirrors are used to focus the power of the sun. The attraction of solar thermal is its ability to store heat and supply “firm capacity” (guaranteed to be there on demand) to the electricity market as opposed to intermittent capacity from solar PV or wind.

“By having firm capacity you don’t need to have the complexity of another gas generating plant sitting behind you in order to secure supply,” Twidell says.

But solar thermal is a less developed industry globally than solar PV, supplying less than 1GW of electricity a year compared with about 20 GW from solar PV worldwide.

However, there is a lot of research under way, with the emphasis changing from what are known as line focus systems to point focus systems, or solar towers…

According to James McGregor, Energy Systems Manager for CSIRO Energy Technology, the aim is to get the cost of electricity produced from [solar towers] down to 10c a kilowatt hour, which would make it competitive with existing electricity supplies. The starting point is expected to be 20c to 30c a kilowatt hour for a pre-commercial scale 1 MW plant.

The new [CSIRO] solar field will start operation and testing this month, with an official launch mid-year.

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