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7 May 2015 News Release

[Music plays and text appears: Bringing our solar expertise to Cyprus]

[Image changes to show Mike Collins, CSIRO Mechanical Engineer]

Mike Collins: My name’s Mike, I’m a mechanical engineer here at CSIRO. I travelled to Cyprus in 2014 as part of the Cyprus Solar Thermal Project to build the heliostats and install them into the field there.

[Image changes to show aerial footage of a field of heliostats]

[Time lapse footage of the heliostat field being constructed plays on screen]

We got to enjoy the fantastic coastal location of the heliostat field there; it’s built right on the edge of the ocean where they access sea water for desalination.

[Image has changed back to show Mike]

The project has 50 heliostats, which concentrate light up onto the top of the tower where they can use the heat from the heliostats, which comes from the sun; they can use that heat to desalinate water and to also create electricity.

[Image changes to show time lapse footage of the construction of the heliostats in a factory type setting and then changes to show footage of the heliostat field being erected]

The field, in total, can collect around 150 kilowatts of energy, so around about enough energy to boil a two litre jug of water in around five seconds.

[Image changes to show Professor Costas Papanicolas]

Professor Costas Papanicolas: Cyprus, an island state, the southernmost and easternmost state of the European Union has lots of sunshine, not enough water and is cut off from the continental power grid of Europe, so we need electricity and water. So solar energy, we think, is the answer to part of this problem.

[Time lapse footage of the heliostat field being constructed plays on screen]

Trying to desalinate water with using solar energy, and at the same time produce electricity.

[Image changes to show Professor Papanicolas and CSIRO staff walking through the heliostat field together and then changes to show Professor Papanicolas]

CSIRO has a lot of those technologies, frankly, we think among the best in the world, and we would like to learn from the research being done here, import some of these technologies and develop a cooperation agreement so we can exchange ideas, what we learn, to achieve those goals, which are useful, not only for Cyprus, but for many parts of the world.

[Image changes to show Wes Stein, CSIRO Solar Research Leader]

Wes Stein: This project has been fantastic for us; it’s the first time we’ve built our heliostats outside of our own backyard. That was a big step for us.

[Image changes to show Wes Stein and Professor Papanicolas walking through the heliostat field together and then changes to show Wes Stein]

Normally we don’t do that sort of thing, but in the case of Cyprus they were a fantastic partner, they understood the research initiatives that we were undertaking, they understood the issues associated with developing a new facility in a new country, so that partnership has worked really well and, I guess, it now sets a platform for a decade of ongoing, collaborative research between our countries. In addition, it’s given CSIRO a lot of confidence in understanding how we’re going to deploy these things outside of our own safety zone and into other environments. So that’s where we want to go, we want these things to be commercialised and build on the good research that we’re doing now.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here]

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As most of the country’s electricity is currently generated using oil, harnessing the sun’s energy through solar thermal technology is an attractive option for Cyprus. It could also power energy intensive desalination plants used to tackle perennial water shortages.

“This project was a big step for CSIRO as it’s the first time we’ve deployed this cutting edge technology outside of our own backyard,” CSIRO solar research leader Wes Stein said. “It’s also the beginning of an exciting collaborative research program, having signed a MoU to undertake joint solar research with the Cyprus Institute.

“Our high-performance heliostats have a unique design that is well suited to the rugged terrain on Cyprus’ south coast, allowing them to operate very efficiently. “They are smaller than conventional heliostats, which gives the user more control over the intensity of the solar concentration. “They also feature a low cost design which allows them to be installed more affordably.”

Professor Costas Papanicolas, President of the Cyprus Institute said solar thermal technology had enormous potential for sun-rich countries such as Cyprus. “Like Australia, Cyprus is blessed with an abundance of sunshine, so increasing the penetration of solar energy is an attractive option both in terms of energy affordability and lowering greenhouse gas emissions,” Professor Papanicolas said. “

We have enjoyed working with CSIRO to install this field in a professional manner, and we are extremely pleased with the performance.”

It took CSIRO, with local help, five weeks to construct the solar thermal field, which spreads out over a half-acre plot of land at the south of the island, on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Consisting of 50 heliostats, the heat generated by the field could bring a two litre kettle to the boil in less than five seconds. This is a suitable size for the Cyprus Institute, the country’s premier research institute, to conduct their research, with expansion planned for the future.

The experimental facility will be initially used for demonstration purposes by the Cyprus Institute, with a view to longer-term commercial use of the technology in Mediterranean islands and the Middle East.

“The Cyprus Institute has been and will be an ideal partner for CSIRO as it is a research organisation with a similar ethos to turn new ideas into commercial products,” Mr Stein said.

“By working collaboratively through exchange of ideas and researchers, and now with common solar concentrating research infrastructure, we can accelerate the deployment of this technology and make big inroads in reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide.”

Solar-thermal tower technology uses many mirrors (heliostats) that accurately track the sun, reflecting light towards a receiver on top of a tower and heating a fluid. The hot fluid is subsequently used to drive a turbine for generating electricity and, in the Cyprus Institute research, powering simultaneously a sea-water desalination plant. Thermal energy can also be stored relatively cheaply compared to other technologies, improving potential for large scale power generation regardless of when the sun is shining.

CSIRO’s Energy Centre in Newcastle is the home of Australia’s low emission and renewable energy research, featuring two solar tower pilot facilities with more than 600 heliostats. CSIRO’s solar thermal team have set a number of records in the past 12 months, generating pressurised air at 880°C and supercritical steam in research projects.

To satisfy European legislation, 13 per cent of Cyprus’ total energy consumption must be derived from renewable sources by 2020.


Professor Costas Papanicolas - President of the Cyprus Institute, Mike Collins - CSIRO Mechanical Engineer, Wes Stein - CSIRO Solar Research Leader
The solar thermal field designed and installed by CSIRO in Pentakomo, on the southern coast of Cyprus.
The solar thermal field designed and installed by CSIRO in Pentakomo, on the southern coast of Cyprus. ©  Konstantinos Stergiopoulos
The solar thermal field designed and installed by CSIRO in Pentakomo, on the southern coast of Cyprus.
The solar thermal field designed and installed by CSIRO in Pentakomo, on the southern coast of Cyprus.

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