Solar thermal

We are leading the way in concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) research, specialising in high-temperature central receiver systems.

The Challenge

Creating reliable energy from solar

Harnessing renewable energy to reduce Australia's dependence on fossil fuels is one of our biggest challenges. And as lowering emissions becomes more important for industry and homeowners, we are looking at new ways of generating solar energy. Our challenge is how to make solar power a reliable, stable power source for Australia's energy future.

Our heliostat field in Newcastle will be replicated on a smaller scale in Japan.

Our Response

Creating advanced solar systems

Central receiver systems, sometimes called 'power towers,' harness the heat of the sun. Sun-tracking mirrors, called heliostats, concentrate sunlight by focusing it onto a target, generating temperatures of hundreds of degrees. This heat can then be used to run a power cycle to make electricity, or drive other industrial processes. While many commercial CSP power stations are already in operation overseas, much research still needs to be done on lowering the cost of CSP technology.

We are aiming to make electricity from CSP competitive with fossil fuel-generated in electricity in Australia through the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative.

Our national energy research centre in Newcastle, contains the only high temperature solar thermal research facility of its type in Australia and is home to the largest high concentration solar array in the Southern Hemisphere.

The site has two high concentration solar thermal tower facilities: Solar Field 1 and Solar Field 2. Both fields are operated from an elevated control room housing the centre's communications and control systems. Each field contains a power tower and a heliostat (mirrors) array which tracks the sun throughout the day, concentrating the solar heat to produce temperature in excess of 1000º Celsius (C).

Our CSP demonstration and research facilities are used for:

  • SolarGas – demonstrating how solar energy can 'supercharge' natural gas
  • solar air turbine research and demonstration – generating electricity from the sun and air
  • high-temperature solar steam research – combining solar power with the energy industry's most state-of-the-art turbines
  • energy storage: showing how solar power can still be used when cloudy or after dark. 

Case studies

  • Australian solar shines on Japan

    Our solar technology is helping Japan reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and giving a boost to the Australian car industry at the same time.

  • Solar field lights up Cyprus

    We’re helping Cyprus meet its renewable energy targets with half an acre of our unique sun-tracking mirrors, or heliostats, in the sun-drenched Mediterranean.

  • Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative

    The Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI) is an $87 million, eight year international collaboration with research institutions, industry bodies and universities transforming Australia into a global leader in concentrating solar thermal power technologies.

  • Building Australia’s largest solar thermal research hub

    We designed and built Australia's largest solar thermal research facility which consists of a 30 metre high solar tower (the tallest in Australia) and a 4000 square metre field of 450 heliostats.

  • Supercritical steam

    We are using solar energy to generate hot and pressurised ‘supercritical’ steam, at the highest temperatures in the world, outside of fossil fuel sources.

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