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Australia's largest solar thermal research hub opens for business



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The Hon Julia Gillard, MP

MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Martin Ferguson

MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

Kim Carr

MEMBER FOR NEWCASTLE

Sharon Grierson

AUSTRALIA’S LARGEST SOLAR THERMAL RESEARCH HUB OPENS FOR BUSINESS

Australia will be at the forefront of global solar thermal research with the launch of a new facility in Newcastle today.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson and Member for Newcastle, Sharon Grierson officially opened the CSIRO Solar Tower this morning.

The world-class facility will be an international hub for solar tower research, development and commercialisation.

It is the largest solar thermal research facility in the country and will ensure that Australia remains at the cutting edge of solar thermal technology.

The development of the facility has been supported by a $5 million foundation grant from the Australian Solar Institute.

Australia has some of the best solar energy resources in the world. Projects like this will allow us to maximise the potential of this resource and increase the use of solar power in our energy mix.

It also provides us with an opportunity to secure a greater share of the global solar energy market by creating export opportunities for technology, such as the solar tower.

Unlike most solar thermal power stations which require water, this facility will initially be used to develop and test a solar air turbine, which will generate electricity from air and sunshine only.

This offers real opportunities for cost effective and efficient energy solutions in our remote arid regions.

Its location in Newcastle underscores the potential for the clean energy industry in the Hunter region.

The Hunter region is already home to the CSIRO National Solar Energy Centre, the Australian Solar Institute, the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources as well as the Smart Grid, Smart City Initiative.

The project has enjoyed strong support from other Hunter region Federal MP’s including the Minster for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, the Member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon and the Member for Shortland, Jill Hall.

The 30 metre high solar tower surrounded by 450 locally manufactured custom designed mirrors (heliostats) is capable of generating temperatures of up to 1,500° Celsius. The increased temperatures mean higher efficiency and lower costs.

The facility will also be used to research solar energy storage, high temperature steam generation, solarised fuels and thermoelectric generators.

Already the CSIRO foundation project has attracted partnerships with two of the world’s most prominent solar energy organisations, Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Spain’s Abengoa Solar, with more international interest expected.

The Government’s expanded Renewable Energy Target, together with a price on carbon will create market opportunities for greater investment in renewable energy technologies like solar.

Our support for research and development through the $5 billion Clean Energy Initiative will help commercialise the technologies to take advantage of these opportunities.

The opening of the solar tower marks an important step in the path to a lower-emissions economy for Australia.

Images, podcast and video available at www.scienceimage.csiro.au 

NEWCASTLE

18 JUNE 2011

PRESS OFFICE (02) 6277 7744

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