Solar power: energy from the sun
Concentrated solar power
CSIRO is leading the way in concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) research in Australia, specialising in high-temperature central receiver 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. CSIRO is aiming to make electricty from CSP competitive with fossil fuel-generated in electricity in Australia through the Australian solar thermal research initiative.
CSIRO has several large scale CSP demonstration and research facilities, and they are used for research and development for several different projects, including:
- 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.
Other areas of research relevant to CSP include:
- Solar intermittency: understanding and managing intermittency and the grid
- Techno-economic modelling: forecasting technical developments and cost reductions