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News

New solar energy research facility in the limelight

CSIRO : 03 October, 2006  (Technical Article)
National and international solar thermal energy researchers now have a unique research facility available to them. The $5.3 million National Solar Energy Centre will be opened today by the Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell.
“The NSEC will be a showcase for solar thermal technologies and play a key role in CSIRO’s ongoing research into efficient, low emission energy generation,” Senator Campbell says.

The NSEC, based at CSIRO’s Energy Centre in Newcastle, is the only multi-collector facility of its type in Australia and home to the largest high-concentration solar array in the Southern Hemisphere.

The NSEC comprises three main elements:

A high-concentration tower solar array that uses 200 mirrors to generate more than 500 kW of energy. It will be capable of achieving peak temperatures of over 1000 °C;
A linear concentrator solar array that generates a hot fluid at temperatures around 250 °C to power a small turbine generator;

A control room facility that will house the centre’s communications and control systems and serve as an elevated viewing platform.

Dr John Wright, Director of the Energy Transformed National Research Flagship, says collaboration is integral to the progress of solar renewable energy research.

'The Energy Transformed Flagship is very keen to use the NSEC to promote collaboration through shared use of the facility by Australian and international researchers,” Dr Wright says. “CSIRO’s Division of Energy Technology, along with a number of other CSIRO and industry partners has been working for over two years to make this facility a reality.'

Chief of CSIRO’s Division Energy Technology, Dr David Brockway, says: 'This type of solar thermal technology draws on two of Australia’s largest energy resources, solar energy and natural gas. The NSEC will enable us to produce something called SolarGas, a greenhouse-friendly gas that has about 26 per cent more energy than natural gas.'

NSEC Project Manager Wes Stein says: 'Effectively, CSIRO’s SolarGas technology offers a transitional pathway from Australia’s fossil fuel dependence to sustainability. It provides all the benefits of solar energy with the convenience of gas.'

This project is supported by the International Science Linkages program, established under the Australian Government’s innovation statement Backing Australia’s Ability, as well as the NSW Government’s Sustainable Energy Research & Development Fund.
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