The CSIRO has partnered with the Chinese company, Thermal Focus, which will use the Australian organisation’s solar heliostat technology for concentrating solar thermal electricity generation in China.

This follows China’s announcement that it will to generate 1.4 GW of concentrating solar thermal electricity by 2018 and 5 GW by 2020. This would double the world’s installed concentrating solar thermal electricity output.

The relationship enables Thermal Focus to manufacture, market, sell and install CSIRO’s patented low cost heliostats, field control software and design software in China, with a shared revenue stream back to Australia to fund further climate mitigation research.

Solar thermal technology uses a field of computer-controlled mirrors (heliostats) that accurately reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver on top of a tower. The concentrated sunlight may then be used to heat and store hot molten salt, which can generate superheated steam to drive a turbine for electricity generation.

High precision heliostats are a crucial component of the system and can represent up to 40% of the total plant cost.

The CSIRO’s unique design features smaller than conventional heliostats, and uses an advanced control system to get high performance from a cost-effective design.

Heliostat Field (image: CSIRO)