Low-cost solar thermal plant launched in NSW

A new solar thermal plant capable of generating low cost, zero carbon emission electricity has been unveiled in New South Wales.

The plant, which is the brainchild of Professor Behdad Moghtaderi and Dr Elham Doroodchi and was developed by Granite Power, is a heat conversion technology that generates electricity from any available heat sources, such as industrial waste heat, solar and geothermal energy sources.

The plant comprises a 200kW field of parabolic solar collectors plus related power block and thermal storage elements.

It was launched at the Wallsend Swimming Centre in Newcastle, where it will be used to produce electricity and heat for onsite use.

The development of the plant involved Granite Power, the University of Newcastle, the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

“The $1.7 million project integrates solar thermal and GRANEX heat engine technology and is supported by $812,000 funding from ARENA,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said.

“The GRANEX technology efficiently turns low-grade waste heat into electricity which increases the amount of electricity that can be generated from the solar thermal field.”

The plant will generate 30kW of electrical output and 150kW of heat for the swimming pool.

“It demonstrates the potential of small-scale solar thermal systems in providing cost effective energy options, particularly for off-grid areas,” Mr Frischknecht said.

Professor Moghtaderi said the project provided proof that the technology could generate electricity for commercial use or sale into the grid, improve productivity and quickly pay for itself.

“This project demonstrates the financial rewards of the GRANEX technology in a market searching for productivity gains and where rising electricity costs are a constant threat to commercial competitiveness,” he said.

“GRANEX has the potential to reduce fuel use for remote industrial sites currently reliant on diesel power generation including mining and the oil and gas sector and to maximise solar thermal power generation.”