CSIRO is building the largest solar power tower of its type in the world at the National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle.
The site will consist of approximately 450 mirrors (heliostats) that will direct solar heat onto a 30 metre-high tower to produce super-heated compressed air for a Brayton Cycle turbine.
The field will cover an area of 4,000 square metres and once built will be capable of operating at temperatures above 900 degrees Celsius.
Whereas most solar thermal power stations require water to operate a steam turbine to produce electricity, Brayton Cycle technology does not need water, but is designed to create electricity through solar power that only requires the sun and air.
Director of CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship Dr Alex Wonhas said that the new technology is a major step forward for Australian research into solar energy, and that it will pave the way for solar power of the future.
“The field will be used to refine the technology in order to make it a cheaper, more efficient energy source that will be suitable for many desert locations both in Australia, and around the world,” he said.
CSIRO received $5 million in funding from the Australian Solar Institute to build the field and conduct research over two years.
The project will be fully operational by March 2011 and is being built adjacent to an existing solar tower field that creates solar gas – using water and natural gas.