Australian Scientists Set World Record for Solar Efficiency

Jon Capistrano
Jon Capistrano
September 2, 2016

Great news from Gizmodo as scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have set a world record for efficiency for a solar thermal dish that generates steam and can be used in power stations.

The team designed and built a new receiver for the solar concentrator dish at the Australian National University, cutting the losses in half and achieving 97% conversion into steam. This breakthrough could lead to the generation of cheaper base-load electricity from renewable energy and help decrease carbon emissions which cause global warming.

According to Dr John Pye of the ANU research School of Engineering, when their computer model told them the efficiency it was predicted to achieve, they thought that it was very high. But when they built and tested it, the performance was pretty amazing. The ANU team is interested in making the solar thermal system commercially available in the future.

Concentrating solar systems uses 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 significantly lower cost than energy from solar PVs stored in solar batteries.

The worldwide concentrating solar thermal capacity has risen by a factor of 10 in the past decade, with some of the largest installations in South Africa, United States and Spain. The ANU research School of Engineering team is part of a larger group of scientists working in the area, with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The new design can provide a 10% reduction in the price of solar thermal electricity. The ANU solar concentrator is the biggest of its kind in the world. The dish focuses the power of an equivalent of 2,100 suns in the receiver, where the water is pumped and heated to 500 C. The new design is a cavity that looks like a top hat with a narrow opening and a wide brim. Water pipes spiral around the underside of the brim and up into the hat.

Click here to read the full story on Gizmodo

Featured Image Credit: Gizmodo

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