It’s one of the biggest international events of the year for solar thermal experts and for the first time it was held in Australia!
The SolarPACES (Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems) executive committee meeting and conference enticed experts from countries including USA, Spain, Germany, France and China. During the event they discussed important solar thermal issues and all the latest developments in the technology, markets and the future of the technology.
CSIRO’s Wes Stein told us, ‘We’re hearing from the experts about their experiences in their different countries, not only around research and technology programs, but also around the measures that have made advancements possible in their country.’
This is important stuff for the future of solar thermal research and technology – to help get this technology operating efficiently and make it more affordable.
CSIRO’s two solar towers were operating for the visitors during the event as working examples of the technology.
And the final post in our series of hot new projects! ‘Plug and Play solar’ is not a new PlayStation game (we wish); it is a project to develop energy management software to manage the various renewable and traditional energy sources a building or site might have.
For example, remote mining operations or towns – like Marble Bar or Hermannsburg – have traditionally been powered by fossil fuels like gas and diesel, but more and more are turning to renewable sources such as solar. Traditionally, it has been up to the system operator to decide when to use which sources. This is often not as easy as it sounds, mostly because of the variable nature of renewable energy sources. Often this means that fossil fuel backup systems are left running just in case a cloud might pass or wind might drop – not the most fuel-efficient solution. What would really help would be an automated system able to intelligently handle multiple fossil and renewable sources.
CSIRO is working on the answer.
Plug and Play is a system where a user can ‘plug’ in the various sources and the system automatically and intelligently ‘plays’, or works out what source to use, when to use and how it should be used. You tell the system what your top priorities are – minimising diesel usage, lowering maintenance costs, or maximising power availability, for example – and it will make the best decisions about when to schedule the diesel generator, when to make the most of the solar panels and when to charge the batteries.
The tool will also be invaluable when designing new remote area power supplies. It’ll help to choose the best mixture of energy technologies for the site’s needs and decide how to size them. And then, instead of needing to have custom hardware and software designed to manage that unique mix, the Plug and Play system will help do it for you.
Senior project scientist Dr John Ward says it’s in the commissioning phase of these power systems that some of the most significant benefits will be seen. “Reducing the need for ‘on the ground’ engineers will be an important outcome,” he told the solar blog. “Currently each is different and unique and needs considerable specialised and costly engineering.”
This project is also expected to have flow-on effects that’ll benefit more than just remote towns. “Next stop would be rural areas, specifically with SWER (single-wire earth return) power lines,” Dr Ward says. “Such areas only have a very ‘weak’ connection to the grid, so they face similar issues to the islanded systems being targeted for this project.
“Our team believes that as the electricity grid evolves to have more interplay between consumer demand and resource availability, there’ll be a role for Plug and Play type systems to become mainstream in every part of the electricity grid.”
It’s no easy feat however. The project is worth over $2.9 million and will take several years to complete. We’re working with ABB Australia, the United States’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The first phase of the project will involve the development of the technology and the second phase will see pilot systems set up in both the United States and Australia. The final product will be a cost effective, retrofit system that can be easily installed, without the need for expert labour. We think it will ultimately be of benefit to thousands of remotely based residents.
The project is one of four projects announced in December 2013 as part of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and United States-Australia Solar Energy (USAEC) Collaboration. It builds on our existing expertise in areas including solar intermittency, customer load management, the virtual power station, mini grid planning, and the work we’ve done on Australian standards for inverter energy systems and load control.
Check out the factsheet for more information.
The first reaction Newcastle Herald journalist Greg Ray had when he was invited to tour our site was ‘oh yeah, ho hum.’
Turns out, though, that it didn’t take our energy researchers long to get him excited about what we do. Read his article for his thoughts on some of the projects here at CSIRO Energy Technology including the pulverised coal engine, solar air conditioning, and SolarGas.
The CSIRO Local Energy Systems team is a group of researchers who want to help you save energy – without noticing you’re doing so.
They’re developing new technologies for use at home or work which can decrease energy costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all while letting you maintain your lifestyle. The group’s projects include solar technologies – like the solar cooling systems we’ve mentioned here before – and other things, like the Electric Driveway project. That’s an ingenious system where your electric car can help your house cut its power bills and increase local grid stability.
Interest piqued? Read more here by downloading our super-nice new brochure.
Today we celebrate the career of Dr Lan Lam – the primary inventor of CSIRO’s UltraBattery – an invention putting two technologies together into one awesome storage unit! Bringing down the cost of hybrid electric vehicles and making it easier to integrate more renewable energy into the grid are just some of the achievements of the UltraBattery.
Today we announced the new Director for our $87 million Australian solar thermal research initiative (ASTRI): Dr Manuel Blanco.
Dr Blanco, a world-renowned solar scientist with almost three decades of academic, research and R&D managerial experience, comes to ASTRI from Spain’s National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), where he was Director of the Solar Thermal Energy Department.
During his career, Dr Blanco has made invaluable contributions to the international solar thermal field – as well as compiling an incredibly impressive CV – and we are very excited to have him on board.
“Australia has one of the best solar resources in the world. It is a natural fit for an international solar thermal research collaboration to use this resource and our expertise to make solar power the cheapest, cleanest energy source it can be.
“We will reduce the cost of solar thermal to just 12 cents a kilowatt hour by 2020 and provide zero-emission energy to people when they need it. It’s a technological leap but we will do it. We are working with the best in the world,” said Dr Blanco. Read the full media release.
We have also updated our ASTRI web page so you can now check out the four major research areas and our partners, take a look: www.csiro.au/ASTRI
Wes Stein, manager of CSIRO’s Solar Energy Centre, was interviewed by CSP Today for an article about the new Australian solar thermal research initiative (ASTRI).
It’s a great read, we recommend a look: CSIRO embarks on cost cutting quest.
Some lucky students in Canberra won’t just be hitting the books when they head back to school next week - they will also become junior CSIRO scientists, helping us with our solar research.
Solar research stations have been set up in four Canberra schools to help CSIRO study the output of photovoltaic (PV) panels. The data will help us to predict the behaviour of PV panels in urban areas and could help future power supply planning.
The school’s PV panels are connected to a website where the data can be monitored in real-time.
More schools will join the research program this year!
In today’s Newcastle Herald newspaper our blogger Dr Greg Wilson appeared in an article about our cool next generation solar cells made from dyes. We’ve previously shown you how they are made. Greg’s also holding one in the picture below.
We are developing dye-sensitised solar cells (DSC) that can be integrated into the walls, windows and roof top materials of buildings. They need to cover a much larger area to generate the same amount of electricity as the common silicon photovoltaic panel. We can make our DSC pretty colours; one day bill boards and signs might also be made of them (how cool!).
If you read the Newcastle Herald article and want to know a bit more, read on.
From Greg: “…it is not as easy as comparing apples with apples. Like all products, silicon solar cells come in a variety of models – these may range from low cost, compact, 5 Watt (W) modules all the way through to higher cost, high performance, modules in the 200+W range.
The product we are developing is for building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) where one type of ‘product’ may be a type of solar glass window with a target of 80W output from the window under Standard Temperature Conditions (STC) of 25C. On a hot day, the surface temperature of a PV module can be much higher than the air temperature, perhaps up to 60C. The output of an 80W silicon module would drop from 80W to 69W as the temperature increased while a DSC module output could increase to 88W for the same temperature change under ideal conditions
The silicon PV modules have a negative temperature coefficient whereas organic solar cells like dye-sensitised solar cells or organic PV experience positive temperature coefficients. Of course other factors such as price, availability and module lifetime also have to be considered in making the final technical selection.
Greg has also chatted about the topic on our CSIRO facebook page. Why not become a fan and join the conversation?
By Nick Kachel
Answer: They were all made possible thanks to the Australian Solar Institute (ASI)*. This blog is dedicated to the ASI and is a huge ‘Thank you’ for all they have done for solar research in Australia.
The beginning of 2013 marked the transition of the ASI into the new independent Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), set up by the Australian Government.
ASI was established in 2009 to keep Australia at the forefront of solar innovation by investing in people and research that aimed to reduce the cost, and increase the competitiveness of, photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies.
ASI support has allowed a number of important CSIRO initiatives to go ahead over the years – in fact, one of ASI’s Foundation projects was the establishment of the Solar Thermal Research Hub here at the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle.
Last December, Minster for Energy and Resources, the Hon. Martin Ferguson AM MP, announced the $87 million Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI), which will be led by CSIRO, as part of ASI’s US-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration. This important initiative will ensure Australia’s solar thermal industry is ideally positioned to drive Australia to the forefront of the global solar research.
We thank the ASI team for their contribution to CSIRO solar research over the last four years, and look forward to working with ARENA in the future.
*And yes, they are all to do with the sun *rolls eyes*