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Funding to help solve solar energy puzzle

The funding will be used to develop a large scale solar air turbine, a thermoelectric generator which is expected to reduce the cost of solar energy by 10 per cent or more, and lastly to conduct Australia’s first investigation of its type of the effects of the irregular nature of sunshine – solar intermittency – on electricity grids.

CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship Director, Dr Alex Wonhas, said the funding will further enable CSIRO’s solar thermal research to remain at a world-class level.

“CSIRO is recognised as a world leader in solar thermal research and, although the projects all differ, each contributes to the ultimate goal of creating solar energy at a cost of 10 to 14 cents per kilowatt hour.

“We will have more than 30 scientists, engineers, chemists and technicians demonstrating and developing these important solar projects,” Dr Wonhas said.

Collaborating with some of the energy industry’s top companies on these projects, CSIRO will aim to make solar energy a more efficient and cost effective energy source compared to other fossil fuel energy sources such as gas and coal. Each of these sources is important for Australia’s energy future.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Thermax and the Australian Energy Market Operator are just some of the industry organisations with which CSIRO is looking to work, as well as a number of major universities.

“CSIRO welcomes the outcome of the ASI funding round,” Dr Wonhas said. “The three projects all have an important part to play in solving the solar energy puzzle.”

As water is not required to operate solar air turbine power plants, they could be the future of power supply for remote communities and industries.

Solar thermoelectric generators convert heat from the sun directly into electricity providing an immediate electricity supply for solar power plants to run their day-to-day operations. It is hoped this work will reduce the cost of solar energy by 10 per cent or even more.

Understanding the issues surrounding intermittency will break down many barriers faced by the energy industry with regard to solar energy.

“In fact, the intermittency study will be the first of its type and will help us understand how the variability of this type of energy effects its integration into Australia’s electricity grid,” Dr Wonhas said.

These projects have been supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Solar Institute (ASI), part of the Clean Energy Initiative.

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