Artist impression of the new solar tower Brayton Cycle demonstration field at CSIRO's National Solar Energy Centre.

Artist impression of the new solar tower Brayton Cycle demonstration field at CSIRO's National Solar Energy Centre.

CSIRO building largest tower of solar power

Reference: 10/57

In a major step forward for Australian research into solar energy, CSIRO is building the largest solar-power tower of its type in the world at the National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle.

  • 28 April 2010

The site will consist of around 450 mirrors (heliostats) that will direct solar heat onto a 30m-high tower to produce super-heated compressed air for a Brayton Cycle turbine.

“The new technology will pave the way for solar power of the future – solar power that only requires the sun and air to create electricity,” says the Director of CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship, Dr Alex Wonhas.

”The field will be used to refine the technology in order to make it a cheaper, more efficient energy source that is suitable for many desert locations in Australia, and the world.

“This new facility will allow us to improve our science by using a real-world, operating solar thermal field to test ways to make the process more efficient and reduce the cost of this clean technology.”
Dr Alex Wonhas, CSIRO

“Most solar thermal power stations require water to operate a steam turbine to produce electricity. Our Brayton Cycle technology does not need water. This technology is therefore ideally suited to many parts of Australia that only receive minimal rainfall,” Dr Wonhas said.

“This new facility will allow us to improve our science by using a real-world, operating solar thermal field to test ways to make the process more efficient and reduce the cost of this clean technology.”

CSIRO received $5m in funding from the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) – an Australian Government initiative – to build the field and conduct research over two years.

ASI Director Mark Twidell said the Institute looked forward to the project proving that lower-cost solar electricity can be produced by a new technology suited to all regions of Australia.

The field will cover an area of 4,000 square metres and once built will be capable of operating at temperatures above 900 degrees Celsius.

The field will be fully operational by March 2011 and is being built adjacent to an existing solar tower field that creates SolarGas – using water and natural gas – at the National Solar Energy Centre site.

National Research Flagships

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia’s major research challenges and opportunities. The 10 Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.

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