Solar thermal energy costs to drop by 2020
The CSIRO-led Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI) confidently announced low-cost zero-emission energy is within reach. The $87 million collaboration between researchers, universities, and the renewable energy industry, aims to lower the generation cost of solar thermal power from 25 cents per kilowatt hour to 12 cents by 2020. If achieved, solar thermal technology will be competitive with other renewable energy sources as well as traditional fossil fuel sources.
Solar thermal energy technology
Solar thermal technology, which uses concentrated solar energy to power steam turbines, is said to have an advantage in terms of benefits compared to other clean and renewable energy sources. For example, unlike photovoltaic technology, some of the heat energy collected during the daytime in a solar thermal power plant can be stored overnight. However generation costs under solar thermal are still higher compared to hydro, wind, photovoltaic, and most specially fossil fuel energy sources.
ASTRI goals and action plan
Under the helm of its new director Manuel Blanco, ASTRI is undertaking the necessary steps to make solar thermal power generation more efficient and less costly. With these efforts, it is expected that the costs of building solar power plants will decrease by as much as 50%, while increasing solar power plants’ operating hours by 50%. Operating and maintenance costs will also decrease significantly.
Dr Blanco, who has previously headed Spain’s National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER) is upbeat about Australia’s potential for being a world leader in solar thermal energy production. “Australia has one of the best solar resources in the world. It is a natural fit for an international solar thermal research collaboration to use this resource and our expertise to make solar power the cheapest, cleanest energy source it can be,” Dr Blanco enthuses in a recent media release.
Image credit: Bilfinger