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.
Greeting the sun and a lovely rosy dawn, our heliostats in formation for Earth Hour (8.30pm, Saturday 23 March).
Want some practical energy saving tips? Our energy efficiency expert, Glenn Platt, blogged with The Newcastle Herald recently and answered all your ‘hot’ questions including saving money on your power bills and electric cars for the future.
We’re helping remote industry look forward to more power with fewer emissions, thanks to the sun.
In the north west of Australia mining activity is expanding very rapidly. Often it’s happening in remote areas – in towns like Nullagine, which is as far away from the nearest city as London is from Warsaw. Large mining operations need a lot of power, and since many are in places with no connection to the electricity grid they have traditionally relied on what power they can generate from diesel or gas.
While today’s power sources like diesel engines and simple gas turbines are cost effective, they are not environmentally sustainable. Transporting the fuel to remote areas not only increases the cost, but also increases the carbon footprint of the fuel.To help out, CSIRO and our partners are investigating ways to make this power generation more environmentally sustainable, and we’re using the region’s most abundant natural resource – sunlight.
In this project, CSIRO and our partner GE will be designing a new gas-powered remote power station, suited to north west Australian conditions, where the natural gas gets a renewable energy ‘boost’ before it goes to the turbine. This boost happens in a solar-driven chemical reaction that upgrades the natural gas into a product called syngas. This solar-enhanced syngas, which we call SolarGas™, contains 25% more energy than the original gas – all of which has come from the heat of the sun. We walked through the process (and showed you photos of our test facility with its field of focusing mirrors) in an earlier blog post SolarGas: what’s it all about?
The sun-enhanced gas now passes to the turbine as usual, where it creates electricity. The ‘waste’ heat from this process is then harnessed to power a second turbine – a steam turbine – which creates extra electricity.
This two-turbine daisy chain, known as a combined cycle power station, is already frequently used for electricity generation. Our design will add the solar stage in the most efficient way, and model the system to see how it performs and what it’ll cost. We expect that adding solar will reduce overall cost, as well as lowering emissions.
The project will be the first time that a combined cycle power station is integrated with the SolarGas™ process in a detailed model. We hope this project will provide a stepping stone to the construction of demonstration plants in the Australian Outback.
The project, worth $700,000, will utilise CSIRO expertise in solar thermal technology and solar syngas reactors in partnership with world leaders in power station technology, GE Australia and the GE Global Research Centre in the United States.
You can read an interview with the project leader, CSIRO’s Robbie McNaughton, in the January issue of the Pilbara Echo.
The ultimate result of this work will be the use of less fossil fuel, for more power, with reduced emissions. That’s good for industry, and good for the environment!
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 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.
We’re making solar thermal heliostats and receivers cheaper and work better.
As you may have read in a previous post, a bunch of solar projects were recently given the green light by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). We’re going to run a series of posts on the CSIRO-led projects so you know exactly what some of our scientists will be working on for the next few years. First up… ‘Optimisation of central receivers for advanced power cycles’.
Let’s call this the ‘Lego’ project. We’re pulling apart the most important Lego bricks that make up concentrated solar power (CSP) technology and making them cheaper and work better: the heliostats and the receiver.
Heliostats (or mirrors) make up the ‘solar field’, they concentrate the sunshine and reflect it onto a receiver (check out the process here).
Our field in Newcastle has 450 heliostats, however some fields have thousands. As you can imagine it is a major cost for a solar power plant and there are still many improvements to be made around field layout, heliostat size, performance and lifecycle. This project will investigate all of these areas to help develop the next generation of ultra low-cost heliostats and field design.
After we reduce the price of heliostats, we move to the receivers. Our receivers need to work efficiently at temperatures exceeding 800 degrees Celsius (that’s about as hot as lava spewing from a volcano), so this is a challenge. We also need to work out the best type of receiver system for the various solar field layouts.
If we can improve the efficiency with which the heliostats and receiver work together, we can reduce the cost of supplying heat to the turbine, which reduces the cost of solar power.
It’s a big job. The project is worth $3.2 million and we’ll be working with Graphite Energy in Australia plus the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories. Hopefully they’re good at playing with Lego.
For more Lego fun, check out CSIRO’s new ship, the Investigator, made of Lego.