Scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia have designed and installed a solar field in Cyprus, placing the island at the forefront of the solar energy frontier in Europe.
According to a news release as most of island’s electricity is currently generated using oil, harnessing the sun’s energy through solar thermal technology is an attractive option for Cyprus.
It could also power energy intensive desalination plants used to tackle perennial water shortages.
“This project was a big step FOR CSIRO as it’s the first time we’ve deployed this cutting edge technology outside of our own backyard,” CSIRO solar research leader Wes Stein said.
“It’s also the beginning of an exciting collaborative research program, having signed a MoU to undertake joint solar research with the Cyprus Institute.
“Our high-performance heliostats have a unique design that is well suited to the rugged terrain on Cyprus’ south coast, allowing them to operate very efficiently. They are smaller than conventional heliostats, which gives the user more control over the intensity of the solar concentration. They also feature a low cost design which allows them to be installed more affordably.”
Professor Costas Papanicolas, President of the Cyprus Institute said solar thermal technology had enormous potential for sun-rich countries such as Cyprus.
“Like Australia, Cyprus is blessed with an abundance of sunshine, so increasing the penetration of solar energy is an attractive option both in terms of energy affordability and lowering greenhouse gas emissions,” Professor Papanicolas said.
“We have enjoyed working with CSIRO to install this field in a professional manner, and we are extremely pleased with the performance.”
It took CSIRO, with local help, five weeks to construct the solar thermal field, which spreads out over a half-acre plot of land at the south of the island, on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean at Pentakomo.
Consisting of 50 heliostats, the heat generated by the field could bring a two litre kettle to the boil in less than five seconds.
This is a suitable size for the Cyprus Institute, the country’s premier research institute, to conduct their research, with expansion planned for the future.
The experimental facility will be initially used for demonstration purposes by the Cyprus Institute, with a view to longer-term commercial use of the technology in Mediterranean islands and the Middle East.
“The Cyprus Institute has been and will be an ideal partner for CSIRO as it is a research organisation with a similar ethos to turn new ideas into commercial products,” Stein said.
“By working collaboratively through exchange of ideas and researchers, and now with common solar concentrating research infrastructure, we can accelerate the deployment of this technology and make big inroads in reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide.”
Solar-thermal tower technology uses many mirrors (heliostats) that accurately track the sun, reflecting light towards a receiver on top of a tower and heating a fluid.
The hot fluid is subsequently used to drive a turbine for generating electricity and, in the Cyprus Institute research, powering simultaneously a sea-water desalination plant.
Thermal energy can also be stored relatively cheaply compared to other technologies, improving potential for large scale power generation regardless of when the sun is shining.
CSIRO’s Energy Centre in Newcastle is the home of Australia’s low emission and renewable energy research, featuring two solar tower pilot facilities with more than 600 heliostats.
CSIRO’s solar thermal team have set a number of records in the past 12 months, generating pressurised air at 880°C and supercritical steam in research projects.
To satisfy European legislation, 13 per cent of Cyprus’ total energy consumption must be derived from renewable sources by 2020.
In February the Cyprus Institute was awarded a European Research Area (ERA) Chair grant of €2.5 million in the field of Solar Thermal Energy (STE).