World solar expert to shine light in Australia

Dr Manuel J Blanco today joins CSIRO as Director of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI).

  • 4 February 2013

ASTRI is an A$87 million, eight year international collaboration transforming the energy industry in Australia by bringing down the cost of solar thermal, a unique energy technology that can create electricity, heat and fuels.

"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."

Dr Manuel J Blanco, Director - Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative

Dr Blanco, a world-renowned solar scientist with almost three decades of academic, research and development managerial experience, comes to ASTRI from Spain’s National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), where he was Director of the Solar Thermal Energy Department.

Dr Blanco has made an invaluable contribution to the international solar thermal industry, including paving the way for the first commercial solar thermal system installed in Spain and chairing the International Energy Agency’s SolarPACES executive committee, the 20-country network for solar thermal collaboration.

“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.

Concentrating solar thermal power uses mirrors to focus sunshine to generate heat, which can be used to power a turbine to create electricity. Concentrating solar thermal technologies can also be used to drive chemical reactions to produce solar derived products, such as fuels. CSIRO’s solar thermal tower in Newcastle, New South Wales is an example of a concentrating solar thermal technology.

ASTRI is led by CSIRO. Current partners include seven universities and the United States Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

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Further information on Dr Manuel Blanco

Dr Blanco is the Chair of the Executive Committee of SolarPACES, the International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement on Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems; he has been Director of the Plataforma Solar de Almeria, the largest European concentrating solar thermal power (CSTP) Research Facility; Principal Investigator of the European Union SOLGAS and SIREC projects – two large CSTP demonstration and technology development projects which paved the way to the first commercial CSTP tower systems installed in Spain; Adviser to the President of the Andalusian Energy Agency; Executive Secretary of SolarPACES; and Full Professor and Chair of the Engineering Department of the University of Texas at Brownsville.