CSIRO builds large solar tower

CSIRO, the national science agency of Australia, is building the largest solar-power tower of its type in the world at the National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle, New South Wales.

The site will consist of around 450 mirrors (heliostats) that will direct solar heat onto a 30m-high tower to produce super-heated compressed air for a Brayton Cycle turbine.

‘The new technology will pave the way for the solar power of the future – solar power that only requires the sun and air to create electricity,’ said Dr Alex Wonhas, director of CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship.

‘Most solar thermal power stations require water to operate a steam turbine to produce electricity,’ added Wonhas. ’Our Brayton Cycle technology does not need water. This technology is therefore ideally suited to many parts of Australia that only receive minimal rainfall.’

CSIRO received $5m (£3.3m) in funding from the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) – an Australian government initiative – to build the field and conduct research over two years.

The site for the solar tower will cover an area of 4,000m2 and will be capable of operating at temperatures higher than 900ºC.

The site is expected to be operational by March 2011 and is being built adjacent to an existing solar tower field.