Concentrated solar thermal

A/Prof Frank Bruno wins Eureka Prize

Associate Professor Frank Bruno is the Leader of the Thermal Energy Storage Group within the Barbara Hardy Institute at The University of Adelaide. Frank and his team are 2015 ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology for melting salt to store solar power. They have developed this low-cost energy storage system using the phase-change system.

Frank's current focus is on phase change material (PCM) for thermal storage in applications of refrigeration and concentrating solar power. Funding has been secured from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to establish a state-of-the-art high temperature thermal storage testing facility and from the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI) to develop reliable low-cost phase change material thermal storage for solar power plants. 

Robert Mierisch CTO Terrajoule Australis

Robert Mierisch has a distinguished career in engineering, manufacturing, renewable energy, education, academia and it was during his work at Hydro Tasmania that he was head hunted by Ausra to work with Dr David Mills on pioneering solar thermal power plants when the company moved from NSW to California USA. After the company's sale to Areva Solar, Robert founded Terrajoule corporation, reviving steam engines with storage to operate as stand-alone electric generators using solar thermal power. 

Robert has recently returned to Australia to commercialise Terrajoule Australis' technology to begin replacing remote diesel grids, where the consumer doesn't have a grid or there's no reliable grid. The technology uses parabolic trough solar concentrators, which he has chosen over the other technologies - linear fresnel, dish or heliostat tower for their inability to withstand tropical cyclones. 

Dr Cameron Stanley RMIT

Dr Cameron Stanley is a Research Fellow in the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at RMIT University.

Photovoltaic (PV) cells typically convert between 15-20% of the incident sunlight into electrical energy and dissipate the remaining energy as heat. Hybrid photovoltaic/thermal (PVT) collectors use a fluid flowing adjacent to the PV cells to collect some of this dissipated heat and transfer it as useful energy e.g. for domestic hot water. As well as collecting heat energy, which would be otherwise wasted, the fluid serves to cool the PV cells and enhance their electrical performance.

RMIT is currently developing a hybrid PVT receiver suitable for linear concentrators, which aims to produce a thermal output of 150ºC and an electrical yield of around 9%. To achieve these temperatures a technique known as spectral beam splitting is used. The high grade thermal output from these receivers is intended to be used for industrial heat processes as well as absorption chillers.

The race to build Australia's first 24-hour solar power is on

Climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions welcomes news that power company Alinta will pursue a solar-thermal “power tower” to replace its ageing coal power stations at Port Augusta in South Australia.

Alinta announced today that its preferred option is a 50 megawatt plant that can store enough solar energy (as heat) to run for 15 hours at night.

Beyond Zero Emissions published a high-level study in 2012 into solar-thermal options for Port Augusta and helped locals launch a campaign to replace the town's coal power stations.

BZE's CEO Stephen Bygrave said the news is a great win for solar.

“This new technology that can supply clean solar power at night will revolutionise our energy supply, and as I've said, that it's inevitable it will be built in Australia. Now the race is on to see which state, and which town, will see the first power tower built”, Mr Bygrave said.

“Port Augusta just pulled ahead in that race. I congratulate the people of Port Augusta and all the groups that have supported this campaign for sticking it out and keeping the solar-thermal with storage option on the table. ”

Image from Repower Port Augusta.

“Alinta are to be congratulated for seeing the value in expanding renewables.

“This progress has been made possible by the existence of the Federal body ARENA [Australian Renewable Energy Agency], which provides funds for these feasibility studies.

“As the residents of Port Augusta know, it's crucial that we keep such support bodies to make a smooth transition to the power of the future.

“We hope that ARENA is able to continue funding this vital work, and that the Renewable Energy Target and Clean Energy Finance Corporation can then help fund the construction of Australia's first baseload solar power station.

“These institutions have been criticised by some recently, but this shows once again that the future lies with renewable energy and we ought to support it.”

Beyond Zero Emissions’ 2012 study on Port Augusta complements the research organisation’s  series of Zero Carbon Australia plans, published in conjunction with The University of Melbourne, that shows how Australia can move to 100% renewable energy in ten years with the political will to do so.

Solar thermal is coming. But where will it land?

By Stephen Bygrave. Climate Spectator, January 30 2014.

With the news that Chile is to join the solar thermal club, Australia could before long become the only inhabited continent without this revolutionary electricity generation technology.

Spanish developer Abengoa is set to build a large solar thermal 'power tower' with a capacity of 110 megawatts for the Chilean government. Solar thermal plants already exist or are actively being developed and constructed, on all other continents.

The solar thermal technology concentrates the sun's free energy with a field of mirrors onto a heat receiver mounted on a central tower, and then uses that heat to generate electricity, and also stores the heat to generate electricity after sundown. The Chilean plant is to have storage capacity for 17.5 hours of operation after sundown, enabling it to provide 24-hour solar power.

That a poorer country like Chile is now building this technology highlights that a wealthy country like Australia should also be building this technology. Figures from the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics in December show the estimated cost of building solar thermal power plants has fallen 30 per cent in the last year.

Abengoa's 183MW Solucar complex, Seville, Spain. Pic: Abengoa

ARENA, Alinta agree funds for Port Augusta solar thermal study

By Giles Parkinson. RenewEconomy, 15 January 2014

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has finally come to an agreement with the privately-owned Alinta to co-fund a feasibility study into a solar thermal power station to augment or replace the existing coal fired generators in the South Australian township of Port Augusta.

ARENA announced on Wednesday it would contribute $1million to the study, with $1.2 million to come from Alinta and a further $123,000 from the state government.

However, the study would not conclude until 2016, which may dash hopes for an earlier start to the project and a near-term replacement for the ageing Playford and Northern coal-fired power stations. Alinta recently said it wanted to extend the life of its two coal fired power stations for another two decades.

Ivanpah solar thermal plant, California. Pic: Chad Ward/Brightsource

Living Green: Power in Renewables

Dr. Jenny Riesz, Newcastle Herald, Sept. 8, 2013

THE Australian Energy Market Operator released a landmark study last month, showing that Australia could reliably supply 100 per cent of its power needs from renewable energy.

AEMO is the organisation responsible for "keeping the lights on" for the entire east coast of Australia, so its assessment is comprehensive and conservative. This means its determination that 100 per cent renewable energy is feasible carries a hefty credibility.

Election Edition


Welcome to Beyond Zero's Election Edition, where Vivien Langford talks to the three major political parties about their policies on climate change.

Greg Hunt, Liberal MP, Shadow Minister for Climate Change Action, Environment and Heritage

Yvette D'Ath, Labour MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and

Christine Milne, Greens senator, leader of the Australian Greens.

Dr Jenny Riesz examines policies to realise 100% renewable energy

Dr Jenny Riesz is a research associate with the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets (CEEM), at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), based in Sydney, Australia. Dr Reisz’s research examines high penetration renewable power systems, with a particular focus on the design and operation of electricity markets.

She talks to Beyond Zero's Anthony and Matt about the 100% renewable energy models for Australia by Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), UNSW and BZE, and the combinations of renewable energy mixes required. It's critical to transfer away from coal fired power to renewables and entirely fesible to expand the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to 90% renewables by 2030, as proposed by the Greens in the upcoming election. 

Let's power ahead with solar options

AUSTRALIA'S energy mix is at a crossroads - and neither political party is helping properly, writes Dan Spencer.

AUSTRALIA'S energy mix is at a crossroads.

Nowhere is this better seen than in Port Augusta, where the town's ageing coal-fired power stations are coming to the end of their life and the community, backed by people across the state, is campaigning for a solar thermal replacement.

The recent debate around the Clean Energy Finance Corporation means this crossroads has a major roadblock. As September 14 nears, politicians and Australian voters need to remember whose future they are shaping at the polls: that of young people and future generations.

Sadly, one of the issues being most politicised this election will directly impact on the lives of young people: how we choose to act on climate change. Not only is support for action on climate change increasingly divided along party lines, there is a stark gap between old and young.

Polling released in the past few days by Essential Research made this divide clear. Among under-35s, 52 per cent of people support carbon pricing and only 25 per cent oppose it. This is remarkably resilient majority support for a policy that has been consistently denigrated since it was introduced.

Sadly, this level of support is not reflected in people over 55, where only 39 per cent support carbon pricing, with 56 per cent opposed.

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