Research to enable Australian solar thermal

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced the results of an investigation, supported by $179,965 of ARENA funding, into solar thermal power integration with the National Electricity Market (NEM).

ARENA chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht said the research demonstrates how solar thermal offers a cost-effective alternative to network enhancements.

“The study found solar thermal could eliminate the need for network augmentation in more than 70 per cent of the cases examined,” he said.

“This is significant, as most of the rise in electricity prices over recent years can be attributed to investment in network infrastructure to meet Australia’s peak power demands.”

Solar thermal can provide power 24-hours-a-day due to storage solutions and easy hybridisation with other energy sources.

The study was a collaboration led by the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association (AUSTELA) with research from the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures and support from the University of New South Wales, Ergon Energy and IT Power. Seven power network companies operating in the NEM also provided essential data.

Mr Frischknecht said the results have been used to create interactive maps that provide insight into network investment, firm capacity and solar thermal cost effectiveness.

“This type of analysis is critical to attracting investors and will help create a pathway for the energy industry and the finance sector to deploy solar thermal technologies in Australia,” he said.

“The maps go hand-in-hand with the System Advisor Model (SAM) solar thermal modelling software ARENA announced last year. Together these tools provide a very clear picture of solar thermal opportunities in Australia.”