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.
Boosting renewable energy sources in Europe
The Mediterranean island of Cyprus currently relies heavily on oil to generate electricity. Due to its climate, it is also reliant on drawing fresh water from sea-water desalination, which requires a significant energy input.
To satisfy European legislation, Cyprus is now committed to deriving 13 per cent of its total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.
Solar solutions from Newcastle to Pentakomo
Our Energy Centre in Newcastle, NSW is the home of Australia's low emission and renewable energy research. It features two solar thermal test plants with more than 600 heliostats – specialised mirrors that track the sun, reflecting light towards a central receiver and heating it. The heat is subsequently used to drive a turbine for generating electricity.
Thermal energy can also be stored relatively cheaply compared to some other technologies, improving potential for large scale power generation regardless of when the sun is shining.
Inspired by the challenges facing Cyprus, our scientists partnered with the Cyprus Institute, the country's premier research body, to design and install a solar field in Pentakomo, on the island's southern coast. The research facility will be used to generate electricity and to provide fresh water by powering energy intensive desalination plants.
"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," our solar research leader Wes Stein said.
"They also feature a low cost design which allows them to be installed more affordably."
Cyprus at the frontier of solar research
With local help, it took our scientists just five weeks to build the half-acre, 50-heliostat Mediterranean installation, which can generate enough power to boil two litres of water in less than five seconds.
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.
Wes Stein said the project placed the island nation at the frontier of solar energy research in Europe, and was also a big milestone for us.
"This project was a big step for CSIRO as it's the first time we've deployed our technology outside of our own backyard.
"The Cyprus Institute has been a perfect partner for this project as it's a similar organisation with a similar philosophy when it comes to concentrated solar power. By working collaboratively, sharing research, science and ideas, we can accelerate the deployment of this technology and make big inroads in reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide.
"The establishment of this research facility distinguishes Cyprus as one of the few countries in the world with pioneering facilities in the innovative field of solar thermal technology."