Large-scale concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) generation can provide substantial economic benefits to Australia.

The Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association announces the release of the major new report, ‘Realising the Potential for Concentrating Solar Power in Australia’.     

Currently, Australia has about 8.5 MW of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) installed (Liddell and Lake Cargelligo) and 44 MW under operation (Kogan Creek Solar Boost) to come online during 2013.

The Report, commissioned by the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) and undertaken by international renewable energy consultancy IT Power.

The Report is the result of an extensive 12 month collaborative review involving AUSTELA, the Clean Energy Council, the Australian Solar Energy Society, CSIRO and Boston Consulting Group, and is the most contemporary and detailed review of concentrating solar power yet undertaken in Australia.

The Report:

  • Provides a summary of the global status of CSP
  • Reviews previous investigations of the potential for CSP in Australia
  • Establishes a best estimate of current installed costs and LCOE for large-scale CSP systems if built in Australia
  • Analyses the potential market segments for CSP electricity in Australia
  • Examines challenges currently impeding the development of a CSP industry in Australia, and
  • Identifies pathways for CSP industry development and supporting research and development.

Key findings

Drawing on unique access to data from the major CSP projects in operation and under construction globally, the review finds that:

  • Both installed cost and levelised cost of energy for CSP in Australia is likely to be significantly less than previous investigations have suggested
  • Cost reductions for CSP in Australia are likely to be achieved at a significantly greater rate than has previously been understood
  • Concentrating solar thermal power with thermal energy storage – which provides the flexibility to deliver power at times of day when it is most valuable – has a value up to double that of electricity generation with no ability to control output timing
  • Thermal energy storage, a mature technology deployed in most new CSP projects internationally, creates significant value that is not currently realized through Australian market mechanisms
  • The technical capacity of the National Electricity Network to cater for CSP power generation, without major augmentation, is up to 15GW
  • Cost benefits of scale in CSP plants are not as material as previous assumed, suggesting broad potential for CSP in Australia from under 50MW scale to utility scale (250MW and greater)
  • Australian technical skills, project development and industrial capabilities position Australian industry well to play a prominent role in the still-forming global market for concentrating solar thermal power.

An Authoritative and Timely Reference

The Report provides an authoritative reference for other studies investigating the value of electricity generation alternatives for Australia’s energy system.

The Report is especially timely in the context of current studies by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics (BREE) investigating relative value and benefits of alternative power generation options in the development of Australia’s energy networks and for the Australian economy.

AUSTELA is engaged with AEMO and BREE in these studies, and has assisted in promoting ongoing dialogue between them and the CSP Review’s authors to ensure the findings of the Review can be fully considered in Australia’s Energy White Paper, Transmission Network Development plans and electricity market evolution.

Report at a Glance – executive summary for stakeholders

An executive summary – the ‘Report at a Glance’ – has been created to assist non-technical readers to access the Report’s key findings as efficiently as possible.  The ‘Report at a Glance’ is included at pages 8 – 35 of the Report.  It is also available at the ASI’s website here –

Further research – The Potential for CSP to Reduce Distribution Network System costs

The draft Energy White Paper forecasts that $120 billion – half of the investment in Australia’s electricity system to 2030 – will be needed in the huge networks operated by Ergon Energy, Essential Energy and other distribution network service providers (DNSPs).  Research in Australia and internationally confirms the potential for CSP to provide load-firming generation that can help reduce network system costs.

In collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney and the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets at the University of New South Wales, AUSTELA has designed and commissioned a study of the Potential Network Benefits of Solar Thermal Electricity Generation in the NEM.

This new research will build upon the findings of ‘Realising the Potential for Concentrating Solar Power in Australia’, to provide detailed analysis and mapping of the potential for solar thermal power generation to reduce network costs and enhance efficiency in the National Electricity Market.

The Potential Network Benefits study is intended to report by early 2013.

Download the report here.( 9.6MB)

Solar thermal power makes sense for Australia – economically and environmentally – as a major industry and a major power source for the 21st century.

Research in Australia and internationally continues to highlight the benefits of solar thermal power generation in modern electricity systems:

  • dispatchable renewable energy using mature thermal energy storage, able to deliver power into the electricity grid when most needed, day or night
  • stable, reliable power generation to support electricity network stability, complementing other more variable renewable energy technologies such as wind and photovoltaic power
  • reliable electric power and high-temperature steam for mining and industrial processes, reducing fuel costs and pricing risks for Australia’s economy
  • easily integrated with other thermal power sources such as biomass, geothermal and gas for reliable 24/7 hybrid power generation.

Australia has access to world-class solar thermal technologies, world-class solar research capability, and proven strengths in large-scale project development, construction and finance. We have world-class solar resources and a clear need for large-scale renewable energy generation.

For our solar-rich, solar-capable nation, solar thermal power is an industry offering huge domestic and international opportunities.

Government and private studies show that solar energy will become a major source of Australia’s and the world’s power in the 21st century – the solar thermal industry will grow to meet world demand. This is why major energy investors including Transfield, ACS Cobra, Abengoa, Areva, Alstom, GE, ABB, Mitsubishi and others are investing in solar thermal power.

Australia has the potential to be a leader in the growing global market for solar thermal power – in technologies, project development capability, finance, research and skills:

  • Australian companies are investing in R&D and developing projects using concentrating solar thermal power technology;
  • The international market for solar thermal technologies and project expertise is growing rapidly;
  • Australian universities are leading solar thermal science and technology, producing highly qualified graduates – more graduates will be needed to meet growing local and international demand;
  • Australia has a mandated market for electricity from renewable sources –20% by 2020.

Large-scale solar thermal power generation can provide substantial economic benefits to Australia including job creation, industry and regional development, and improvements to the economic efficiency of Australia’s renewable electricity generation portfolio.

AUSTELA is working with organisations such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), CSIRO, Clean Energy Council, the Australian Solar Council and others to support research and demonstration of solar thermal power in Australia.