Australia's CSIRO is partnering with six Australian universities and the United States’ Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories and Arizona State University on an eight-year solar thermal research initiative, which aims to lower the cost of solar thermal power from 25 to around 10 cents a kilowatt hour.
According to the Australian government, the collaboration, formally known as the "Australian Solar Institute" and a contribution of over $36 million (in US dollars) of the total $89.7 million (in US dollars), will ensure the nation "remains at the leading edge of global solar research".
CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship Director, Dr Alex Wonhas, said the funding provides CSIRO with the opportunity to work with the world’s best and fully develop solar thermal technology.
“A world-class collaboration of this scale ensures we are well on our way to lower the cost of solar thermal technology," Wonhas said, adding, "Demonstrating the technology is vital, it is what attracts investment and development in the industry.”
CSIRO’s university partners for the solar thermal research initiative include The Australian National University, University of Queensland, The University of Adelaide, The University of South Australia, Queensland University of Technology and Flinders University.
Solar thermal power uses mirrors to concentrate sunshine to generate heat, which then powers a turbine to create electricity or solar derived fuel. CSIRO’s solar thermal tower at Newcastle is an example of the technology.
On a related note the government announced the successful CSIRO-led United States-Australia solar energy collaboration solar projects worth over $14.4 million (in US dollars), with the most significant being the creation of a $7.8 million (in US dollars) solar forecasting system.