Concentrated Solar Power potential in Australia

Concentrating solar power could provide approximately 30 per cent of Australia’s total current electricity generation capacity with only modest extensions to the national electricity grid if forecasted cost reductions are achieved, according to a new report from the Australian Solar Institute.

The report, Realising the Potential of Concentrating Solar Power in Australia, was commissioned by the Australian Solar Institute to accelerate the technology’s development in Australia.

The findings of the report also show that if further action is taken now, Australian deployment of concentrating solar power (CSP) could realistically reach 2,000 MWby 2020. By then, approximately 4,000 people would be employed in construction and ongoing operations, with the majority of these jobs in regional areas.

ASI Executive Director Mark Twidell said 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 of IT Power Australia, said that 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 was written by IT Power Australia as part of a study commissioned by the ASI.

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

The sector should better communicate the technology’s value proposition to key stakeholders to increase awareness of its potential

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

The sector should leverage continued public and industry investment in research, development and demonstration activity to lower costs and build confidence in the technology.