A landmark agreement to roll out Australian designed solar heliostat technology in China will provide climate mitigation benefits for both countries.
The deal between CSIRO, which invented the the specialist heliostat technology, and Chinese company Thermal Focus, will help China reach its renewable energy targets and produce 1.4GW of concentrated solar thermal (CST) by 2018, and up to 5GW by 2020.
Thermal Focus will market, sell and install CSIRO’s heliostats in China, with the revenue stream flowing back into Australia to fund further climate mitigation research.
Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Greg Hunt, said Australia is a leader in clean energy technology and this partnership is an important step in realizing this advantage by commercialising the product and returning the gains to the taxpayer.
Solar thermal technology uses a field of computer-controlled mirrors (heliostats) that accurately reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver on top of a tower.
The concentrated sunlight can then be used to heat and store hot molten salt, which can generate superheated steam to drive a turbine for electricity generation.
An advantage of this system is the very low cost of storing thermal energy, giving CST technology great potential for medium to large-scale solar power, even when the sun isn’t shining.
A heliostat field can represent up to 40 per cent of the total plant cost so low cost, high precision heliostats are a crucial component.
CSIRO’s software optimises the configuration of the heliostats prior to construction and manages each heliostat to ensure the optimum amount of reflected heat is focused on the receiver, maximising the amount of power that can be produced.