22 August 2016 2016 12:24 PM GMT

Australia Sets World Record For Solar Thermal Efficiency With 97% Conversion

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have set a world record for efficiency for a solar thermal dish generating steam that could be used for power stations. The team designed and built a new receiver for the solar concentrator dish at ANU, halving losses and achieving a 97 percent conversion of sunlight into steam. The breakthrough could lead to the generation of cheaper base-load electricity from renewable energy and help lower carbon emissions which cause global warming.

“When our computer model told us the efficiency that our design was going to achieve, we thought it was alarmingly high,” said Dr. John Pye, from the ANU Research School of Engineering; “but when we built it and tested it, sure enough, the performance was amazing.” The ANU team has already had a commercial interest in the solar thermal system.

Concentrating solar thermal systems use reflectors to concentrate sunlight and generate steam, which can drive conventional power station turbines. It can be combined with efficient heat storage systems and can supply power on demand at a significantly lower cost than solar energy from photovoltaic panels that has been stored in batteries. The global concentrating solar thermal capacity has grown by a factor of 10 in the past decade, with some of the largest installations in Spain, United States, and South Africa.

The team in the ANU Research School of Engineering is part of a broader group of scientists working in the area, with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Dr. Pye said. “Ultimately the work in this project is all about reducing the cost of concentrating solar thermal energy. Our aim is to get costs down to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity so that this technology will be competitive,” he said. “This new design could result in a 10 percent reduction in the cost of solar thermal electricity.

“I’m optimistic that our technology can play a role in the grid, by helping to provide power at night without fossil fuel power stations running.” At 500 square metres, the ANU solar concentrator is the largest of its kind in the world. It focusses the power of 2,100 suns onto the receiver, through which water is pumped and heated to 500 degrees Celsius.

The new receiver design is a cavity that resembles a top hat with narrow opening and a wide brim. Water pipes spiral around the underside of the brim and up into the hat. The sunlight is focused onto the pipes, heating the water as it enters at the brim and spirals up into the cavity. The water reaches peak temperature in the deepest reaches of the cavity, which minimises heat loss. Heat which does leak out of the cavity can be absorbed by the cooler water around the hat’s brim.

The power of the concentrated radiation is so strong that it can damage componentry if not aligned properly, so the team calibrated the dish using the full moon. The receiver design was presented at the SolarPACES 2015 conference, a full paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4949081. A video interview with the researchers is on ANU YouTube channel.

Photo: Felix Venn, one of the researchers involved, on the Australian National University ANU solar thermal dish.Courtesy of Stuart Hay, ANU.

July 29th 2019
Battery Boom: Wind And Solar Can Generate Half Of Worldwide Electricity By 2050

Coal is to shrink to just 11% of global electricity generation by mid-century, from 38% now, as costs shift heavily in favour of wind, solar and batteries. Wind and solar are set to surge to almost “50 by 50” – 50% of world generation by 2050 due to reductions in cost. “Cheap battery storage means that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The result will be renewables eating up more and more of the existing market for coal, gas and nuclear.”

July 28th 2019
Corporate Sourcing of Renewables Growing, Taking Place in 75 Countries

Companies in 75 countries actively sourced 465 terawatt hours (TWh) of renewable energy in 2017, an amount close to the overall electricity demand of France, according to the report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). With the continued decline in the costs of renewables, the report suggests, corporate demand will continue to increase as companies seek to reduce electricity bills, hedge against future price spikes and address sustainability concerns.

July 27th 2019
Arsenal Unveil Battery Storage System: First Of Its Kind At A UK Football Club

Arsenal Football Club has unveiled a battery storage system (BSS) to store enough energy to run the 60,000 seater Emirates Stadium from kick-off to full time. It follows a unique collaboration with Pivot Power to install a 2MW/2.5MWh lithium ion BSS, with funds managed by Downing LLP. The project, the first of its kind in the UK, will also save club money as it works to support low-carbon plans. The BSS allows Arsenal to avoid peak power prices, buying electricity when it is cheap and storing it for use when prices are high. Typically, energy can cost three times more at peak times than overnight. The installation maintains Arsenal as the leader in sustainability in sport following its commitment to clean energy with Octopus Energy in 2016.

August 10th 2018
Major Role For WorleyParsons’ Advisian On World’s Largest Solar Power Project

Noor Energy 1 has appointed Advisian, the global consulting firm of WorleyParsons, as Owner’s Engineer for the concentrating solar power (CSP) fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai. The 700MW project will be the largest of its kind in the world and as an Owner’s Engineer, Advisian will protect the owner’s interests by ensuring all contractors are adhering to project specifications. It will also provide a review of the basic and detailed engineering, manage risk and provide technical support during construction & commissioning of the plant.

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