Solar Record Breaker - VideoThursday 5th June 2014
A world record in solar thermal energy has been broken at Australia’s CSIRO energy centre. They have used solar energy during a particularly hot spell to generate “supercritical” steam.
The team of solar thermal engineers and scientists at the Energy Centre in Newcastle used the ample sunlight flooding their solar fields to produce the ultra-hot, ultra-pressurised steam that’s used to drive the world’s most advanced power plant turbines.
They used the heat from the sun, reflected off a field of heliostats (or mirrors) and concentrated onto a central receiver point to create the steam at these supercritical levels. The achievement is being described in the same terms as breaking the sound barrier, so impressive are its possible implications for solar thermal technology.
The temperature of the steam they created, 570° C, is about twice the maximum heat of a regular kitchen oven – or around the point where aluminium alloy would start melting. And the accompanying pressure (23.5 megapascals) is about 100 times as high as the pressure in your car tyres, or roughly what you’d experience if you were about 2 kilometres under the surface of the ocean.
This is the first time solar power has ever been used to create these ‘supercritical’ levels on this scale, usually only ever reached using the burning of fossil fuels, which highlights the real achievement of the CSIRO team.
Instead of relying on burning coal to produce supercritical steam, this method demonstrates that the power plants of the future could be using the zero emission energy of the sun to reach peak efficiency levels – and at a cheaper price.
Watch the video to see how they set up the system to break a record.
Thursday 5th June 2014