Australian scientists set record for solar thermal efficiency

A group of scientists in Australia have set a world record for efficiency for a solar thermal dish generating steam that could be used for power stations. The team from […]

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By Jacqueline Echevarria

A group of scientists in Australia have set a world record for efficiency for a solar thermal dish generating steam that could be used for power stations.

The team from the Australian National University (ANU) achieved a 97% conversion of sunlight into steam by designing and building a new receiver for the solar concentrator dish.

The scientists claim the new design could result in a 10% reduction in the cost of solar thermal electricity.

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 panels that has been stored in batteries.

The ANU team believes the breakthrough could lead to the generation of cheaper base-load electricity from renewable energy and help lower carbon emissions.

John Pye from the ANU Research School of Engineering 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.

“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.”