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Australian-U.S. collaboration to halve cost of solar thermal

If the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI) is successful, the cost of solar thermal energy will halve by 2020.

Dr. Manuel Blanco, the newly appointed Director of ASTRI, says the cost of solar thermal energy – using concentrating solar power (CSP) technology – will fall to 12 cents per kWh, down from a current cost of about 25 cents per kWh.

“We will reduce the cost of solar thermal to just 12c/kWh by 2020 and provide zero-emission energy to people when they need it,” said Dr. Blanco.

“It’s a technological leap but we will do it. We are working with the best in the world.”

Dr. Manuel Blanco. Credit: CENER

ASTRI is a new project launched at the end of 2012 with the specific aim of making solar thermal price competitive with other energy sources.

The project has received $35 million in funding from the Australian government, and involves six Australian universities as well as the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories and Arizona State University.

This cross-continental effort to make solar thermal as cheap as fossil fuels is part of the United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration, which also has other projects aimed at making photovoltaic energy cheaper.

“A world-class collaboration of this scale ensures we are well on our way to lower the cost of solar thermal technology,” said Dr Alex Wonhas, Energy Transformed Flagship Director at Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).


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