Renewables, Solar Thermal Power, Storage

Key role of solar thermal power in decarbonising Australia

The CSIRO’s “Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap” has been endorsed by the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association (AUSTELA), particularly its findings that outline the significant role concentrating solar thermal power (CSP or CST) will play in supplying industrial heat and long-duration storage to the nation, writes Gareth Pye.

CSP involves the capture and storage of solar power which is stored as heat – as seen above at the Torresol Energy Gemasolar plant in Fuentes de Andalucia, near Seville, in southern Spain – and the technology can play a vital role in the grid as part of Australia’s path to decarbonisation.

“The ‘Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap’ is a significant contribution to the debate around the future of the energy market, outlining the vital role storage will play in reaching net zero,” says AUSTLEA spokesperson Dr Keith Lovegrove, who was an external advisor to the CSIRO roadmap team.

“It highlights the role of CSP across multiple energy use sectors in the Australian economy, including power generation, transport and manufacturing.

“It reveals how CSP will deliver heat to industrial processes, provide heat and power for renewable fuel production, and provide long-duration energy storage to our grid leading up to 2050.”

CSP uses mirrors to concentrate and capture energy from the sun, which is stored as heat in molten salt tanks that can deliver electricity or heat for up to 15 hours. This enables overnight power generation, including 24/7 thermal industrial processes.

“While the role of battery storage is well recognised, the roadmap shows CSP is much more cost-effective at providing medium- to long-duration energy storage,” says Dr Lovegrove.

“CSP provides additional benefits when deployed in electricity networks as it offers grid stability services, removing the need for expensive synchronous condensers and supporting the rollout of wind and solar PV.

“The roadmap also demonstrates CSP is a zero-emissions alternative to gas in powering industrial processes.”

Dr Lovegrove says the CSIRO roadmap demonstrates how much work needs to be done to reach Australia’s 2050 emissions target, and includes recommendations for incentivisation of medium- and long-duration storage.

“We must do more if we want to catch up with other countries and decarbonise our energy system,” he says.

“The CSIRO has recognised two difficult aspects of the decarbonisation challenge – long-duration storage and industrial process heat – and concludes CSP is a cost-effective way to address those challenges.

“It was a pleasure to work with CSIRO in the development of this report.

“AUSTELA looks forward to further collaboration between industry and government to ensure we maximise our powerful sun to produce cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy.”

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