Renewable energy is a great contributor to the global green going madness though, but for decades solar thermal power plants have been using steam turbines that convert thermal energy into mechanical energy usually by burning fossil fuels. A few newer plants have switched to the use of solar energy to heat water into high-pressure steam to drive a turbine, but again water is not readily available all the time. So, Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, has developed a new type of technology to produce clean energy in a more green manner.
The CSIRO is building a new type of solar thermal field, tower and research facility in Australia that requires only air and the sun, making it perfect for places that receive minimal rainfall. At this new facility, the sun’s rays will be focused onto a 30-meter high solar tower using field of mirrors known as heliostats. The solar Brayton Cycle system doesn’t heat water into steam to power a turbine, instead it uses the concentrated solar energy to heat compressed air, which expands through a 200kW turbine to generate electricity. As the sun doesn’t shine with same intensity throughout the day, the job of heating compressed air can also be performed by natural gas combustion.
The CSIRO has started installing 450 large heliostats at the agency’s National Solar Energy Centre (NSEC) in Newcastle, New South Wales this week. Once installed, the heliostats will form Australia’s largest solar-thermal tower system and will concentrate the sun’s rays to create temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. Spread over an area of 4,000 square meters, the solar Brayton Cycle field will be the largest of its type in the world after it is completed and will generate energy equivalent to the amount required to power nearly 100 homes. The solar Brayton Cycle project will also incorporate the option of a future solar thermal storage system so that during peak demand times, energy can be provided from renewable energy sources.