Australian Solar Technology Used to Help China Reach Clean Energy Target
Author: Marty Middlebrook
Australia's solar heliostat technology will be used for concentrating solar thermal (CST) electricity generation in China.
Concentrating Solar Thermal is the process of using mirrors to focus (concentrate) light from the sun to a receiver, heating substances like oil or molten salts which in turn boil water to steam to power turbines and other energy production.
The Australian CSIRO has patented low cost heliostats – which are used to track the sun during the day, further enhancing solar power collection. CSIRO has now partnered with Chinese company Thermal Focus, following China's announcement to produce 1.4 GW of CST by 2018, and 5 GW by 2020. This would double the world's installed CST plants.
The relationship enables Thermal Focus to manufacture, market, sell and install CSIRO's patented low cost heliostats, field control software and design software in China, with a shared revenue stream back to Australia to fund further climate mitigation research.
"Australia is a leader in clean energy technology and CSIRO's partnership with China's Thermal Focus takes our climate mitigation focus to a global stage," said Dr Larry Marshall, CSIRO Chief Executive. Marshall said he was proud of the solar thermal technology team and their innovative science.
"This is another great example of all four pillars of our Strategy 2020 in action; using excellent science to deliver breakthrough innovation, and through global collaboration, increasing renewable energy deliverables."
An advantage of the CST system is the very low cost of storing thermal energy, giving it great potential for medium to large-scale solar power, even when the sun isn't shining.
A heliostat field can represent up to 40 per cent of the total plant cost, so low cost, high precision heliostats are a crucial component.
CSIRO's unique design features smaller than conventional heliostats, and uses an advanced control system to get high performance from a cost-effective design.
CSIRO's software optimises the configuration of the heliostats prior to construction and manages each heliostat to ensure the optimum amount of reflected heat is focused on the receiver, maximising the amount of power that can be produced.
For more information on concentrating solar thermal technology, visit the Australian Academy of Sciences Nova website.