November 22, 2007 (Herald Sun) – RENEWABLE energy company Solar Systems says it has developed a way of converting solar power into electricity around the clock, even when the sun is not shining.
Managing director Dave Holland told BusinessDaily that although the process, which produces hydrogen and stores it, is still years from connecting to the electricity grid, it has been demonstrated to produce baseload power.
He said less than 1 per cent of the planet’s arid lands could produce the entire world’s energy needs using the technology, without harmful emissions, concern about finite fuel supply, or toxic waste.
The company already operates four small commercial solar power stations in central Australia and is in advanced talks to export its technology through the Asia Pacific Partnership (AP6).
Its innovative solar concentrating technology is much further down the cost curve than conventional photovoltaics.
“The capability for baseload production, together with our achievements to keep costs down, will allow us to compete with mainstream power generators serving urban areas,” Mr Holland said.
Solar Systems has begun building a research and development plant on a 31ha site at Bridgewater, near Bendigo, to commercially demonstrate its hydrogen-solar technology.
Initially the project will consist of a 1ha field of sun-tracking mirrors, called heliostats, and a tower up to 35 metres high.
The second phase will be a 2ha field of mirrors and a tower up to 75 metres high.
It is envisaged the hydrogen technology will be added to Solar Systems’ proposed $420 million solar power station near Mildura, which when it is complete in 2013 will have
the capacity to supply electricity to 45,000 homes.
Solar Systems began to develop research by its technical director John Lasich 17 years ago and employs 90 people.
Recently the company said it would spend $22 million to establish a manufacturing plant in Melbourne employing 150 people to make high efficiency photovoltaic components for domestic and overseas markets.
The components produce up to 1500 times more electricity per square metre than traditional photovoltaic cells.
The established outback generators use mirrors on giant dishes to concentrate solar energy and focus it on to photovoltaic receivers connected to the dish.The next generation technology being developed at Bridgewater takes the mirrors and lines them up in dozens of flat rows, rather than in dishes.
Known as heliostats, the mirrors track the sun and focus its energy on to a receiver mounted on a tall pole.
The technology that will continue to produce electricity when the sun goes down works by using the concentrated solar energy to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen through a spectrum splitter and then an electrolyser.
The hydrogen is then stored in large onsite tanks, ready to be used by fuel cells for electricity generation at night.