An artists’ impression of CSIRO’s new solar field and tower in Newcastle, NSW. (CSIRO)
Developing new solar air turbine system technology
A new partnership between CSIRO and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will develop and demonstrate large scale air turbine system technology for concentrated solar thermal power plants.
29 November 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011
The world's largest solar air turbine of its type is currently under construction at CSIRO’s National Solar Energy Centre, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, and the partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) will now ensure solar air turbine systems progress beyond research phase and begins the process towards commercialisation.
The solar air turbine system uses the Brayton Cycle to generate electricity by compressing and heating air to turn a turbine. Unlike most concentrated solar thermal (CST) power technologies, no water is used in the process.
The project was made possible with funding from the Australian Solar institute (ASI) with in-kind support from MHI and CSIRO.
The ASI has contributed A$3.05 million to support the A$10.55 million, two-and-a-half year research project.
Innovating current technologies
The project takes each of the major components of the CSIRO’s solar air turbine system pilot site and will develop and advance the technology to decrease the cost of capital, installation and operation while at the same time increasing the efficiency of the system.
CSIRO will develop and advance air turbine technology to decrease the cost of capital, installation and operation.
The components include:
- receiver – improving air receivers to withstand higher temperature conditions
- heliostats – engineering a cheaper, more efficient, commercial ready design
- continuous power supply – demonstrating dispatchable power solutions for after-dark electricity generation
- system – designing the best possible pilot and commercial solar air turbine system.
Benefits to Australia
Creating a viable and advanced solar air turbine technology has a number of benefits for Australia and the world including:
- water free – the air turbine does not require water for cooling and is therefore suited to remote and arid locations
- cost – in the near term air turbines could provide cost benefits in remote locations where diesel is commonly used, and in the medium term could provide cost benefits as grid-connected modular power stations
- industry – CSIRO believes that successfully demonstrating the system at scale, will generate jobs and investment in the solar industry
- dispatchability – the air turbine can be simply hybridised with backup fuel such as gas for dispatchable power
- renewable energy – creating renewable and alternative power sources will help meet Australia’s renewable energy target and reduce Australia's carbon emissions.
The collaboration with CSIRO will build on MHI’s experience in the design and manufacture of large scale power generation technologies and technological developments in the renewable energy sector.
MHI will provide research, development and manufacturing expertise and facilities to develop and commercialise solar air turbine technology.
The project is being supported by a grant from the Australian Government's Australian Solar Institute (ASI), part of the Clean Energy Initiative.
The ASI is supporting Australian solar research and development to help solar energy become cost competitive with other energy sources.
Read more at: Solar power: energy from the sun.