Energy researchers at CSIRO Newcastle are working on an $87million research project that aims to lower the price of solar thermal power from 25¢ to 10¢ per kilowatt hour.

The Hunter-based researchers are working in partnership with six Australian universities and the United State’s Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Solar thermal power uses mirrors to concentrate sunshine to generate heat, which then powers a turbine to create electricity, or solar derived fuel. 

CSIRO’s solar thermal tower at Mayfield West is an example of the technology in action.

The project is being assisted by a $35million contribution from the Australian Solar Institute and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship director Alex Wonhas said it  was an opportunity for the world’s best researchers to fully develop solar thermal technology.

‘‘A world-class collaboration of this scale ensures we are well on our way to lower the cost of solar thermal technology,’’ he said. ‘‘Demonstrating the technology is vital, it is what attracts investment and development in the industry.’’

The organisation’s energy researchers are also leading a project that is exploring a future vision for Australia’s electricity system.

The project, based on the potential of smart grid technology, will guide a $240billion investment over 20 years.

The project’s 35 industry partners, include electricity generators, distributors, transmission service providers, retailers, regulators, government, consumer and environment groups.