Breakthrough in concentrated solar energy made in Australia

June 13, 2014 0 By Erin Kilgore

Solar Energy breakthrough

Breakthrough from CSIRO may eventually find its way to the United States

A breakthrough in concentrated solar power made in Australia may be coming to the United States. Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) have developed a “supercritical” steam system for concentrated solar power facilities. This system utilized concentrated sunlight to generate super hot, highly pressurized steam. CSIRO is one of the partners of Abengoa, which is a leading clean technology organization with operations in the U.S. This partnership may bring CSIRO’s breakthrough to the U.S. at some point in the future.

Supercritical steam production system works well with concentrated solar power systems

The supercritical steam system is capable of generating steam at the highest temperatures ever recorded from a non-fossil-fuel source. This steam can, of course, be used to generate electrical power with the use of a turbine. Many concentrated solar power facilities generate a great deal of thermal energy that goes without use due to storage difficulties and the efficiency of photovoltaic technology itself. By using CSIRO’s new steam system, thermal energy may not be wasted in the future.

New steam generation systems could help countries move away from fossil-fuels

The steam system could mean that solar power is one step closer to being considered on par with coal and gas power plants. Coal and gas are not used to generate electrical power directly. Instead, these fuels are burned to produce thermal energy, which is used to generate steam. This steam is what is used to produce electrical power. Currently, coal and gas are considered the most efficient ways to generate steam, but solar energy may soon replace these two fossil-fuels. More testing must be done on the new steam generation system, however, before it can effectively replace coal and gas.

Energy storage remains one of the primary challenges facing renewable energy as a whole

In the U.S., concentrated solar power has received relatively modest attention. While some of the largest concentrated solar energy systems in the world are located in the U.S., much of the federal government’s energy efforts are focused on other solar fields. Effective energy storage remains one of the leading problems currently related to solar energy.

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