A team of scientists at the University of Sydney, Australia, has done ground-breaking research in the field of renewable energy by generating solar power using mirrors.
The team worked on developing a new type of mirror that is said to be more efficient at reflecting light than conventional mirrors. Thus, it can generate more electricity from the same amount of sunlight.
The mirrors have a special coating and are known as solar collectors. They come in various formats with unique designs and focusing techniques, which include solar power towers, dish systems, and parabolic troughs.
The solar collectors that concentrated solar thermal technology (CST) harness the power of solar energy to generate heat or even electricity. Industry experts expect the new technology to revolutionise the way solar power is generated, making it more efficient and cost-effective.
The technology uses a receiver situated at the solar collector’s focal point, which helps absorb and turn the concentrated sunlight into heat. When it comes to the receiver, the contents include heat-transfer fluids, which have high-temperature oil or molten salt.
However, CST has some drawbacks – it needs a favourable climate with constant sunshine to function at its best. Australia’s National Science Agency CSIRO made a key breakthrough in the technology, which may help the entire world. In this context, the team could touch a critical milestone temperature of 803°C (1477°F) at the receiver for the first time.
Dr Jin-Soo Kim, who leads the agency’s solar technologies team, highlighted that it is significant because it creates the opportunity for more excellent renewable energy storage when combined with our patented heat exchanger. He added that the novel technology could help deliver low-cost renewable energy at scale and contribute to the decarbonisation of Australia’s heavy industry.
The CSIRO trial system in Newcastle has around 400 mirrors. For a full-scale one, it might require over 10,000 larger mirrors. The extra installation can help produce electricity on par with a 100 MW coal plant.
Dominic Zaal, Director of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute, explained that the new type of renewable heat technology will have a return on investment of less than ten years within five years. Moreover, the payback period is expected to be shorter of around four to five years, by 2035.