A new report finds concentrating solar power (CSP) could provide about 30 per cent of Australia’s total current electricity generation capacity with only modest extensions to the national electricity grid, if forecast cost reductions are achieved.
The report, Realising the Potential of Concentrating Solar Power in Australia, was commissioned by the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) to accelerate the technology’s development in Australia.
ASI Executive Director Mark Twidell said the report finds that with continued investment in CSP, Australia has the potential to secure for itself a valuable part of the global clean energy supply chain and in turn help address Australia’s long term greenhouse gas emissions challenge.
“CSP systems, with storage, offer large-scale clean energy generation that can provide electricity for peak times, as well as baseload power or the electricity to meet consumers’ long-term demands,” Mr Twidell said.
“Importantly, CSP can be efficiently integrated into existing and new coal and gas power plants to reduce emissions for a least-cost transition to a low-emission future.”
Lead author of the report, Dr Keith Lovegrove, IT Power Australia, said there is a significant cost-revenue gap that is deterring investment in the technology but this can be closed with concerted action.
“The cost-revenue gap is likely to close over the next decade as plant costs fall through global deployment and technology improvement, and available revenue rises as clean energy grows in value. Australia could contribute significantly to this evolution,” Dr Lovegrove said.
“The report also found that if further action is taken now, Australian CSP deployment could realistically reach 2,000 megawatts by 2020. By then around 4,000 people would be employed in construction and ongoing operations, with the majority of these jobs in regional areas.”
The report outlines four actions that will help drive CSP deployment in Australia. First, while continuing to focus on lowering cost, the CSP sector should work with governments and regulators to increase the reward for clean energy systems that better correlate generation to real-time electricity demand.
Second, the CSP sector should better communicate the technology’s value proposition to key stakeholders to increase awareness of its potential.
Third, the sector should work with governments, regulators and service providers to pre-approve and provide connections for CSP systems in selected areas of high solar resource to help lower first-of-a-kind development costs.
Finally, the sector should leverage continued public and industry investment in research, development and demonstration activity to lower costs and build confidence in the technology.
“Building on Australia’s solar research and development expertise, great solar resource and skilled workforce, there is clearly an outstanding opportunity for an Australian CSP industry to progress the technology along the familiar curve that traces the early stages, fast deployment and eventual maturity of a technology adoption,” Mr Twidell said.
The report was written by IT Power Australia Pty Ltd as part of a study commissioned by ASI.