First Of Its Kind CSPV Project Unveiled In Australia

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A fully grid-connected, first of its kind concentrated solar photovoltaic (CSPV) power tower was unveiled on Friday in Newbridge, Victoria, Australia, which some believe could reduce the cost of solar-based electricity around the world.

The Central receiver CPV pilot project, developed by RayGen Resources, serves to “demonstrate the world’s first pre-commercial pilot of a central receiver system that uses solar photovoltaic (PV) energy conversion.” The CSPV project cost $3.6 million, and received $1.75 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

CSPV-power-tower“RayGen has already received international orders for the technology, which has the potential to reduce the cost of solar-based electricity,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht on the unveiling of the project, which will provide 200 kilowatts to a local agriculture business. “This is a great example of how ARENA support has helped deliver valuable Australian IP with the potential to create exports and hundreds of new jobs.”

Specifically, the concentrated solar photovoltaic power tower “employs an ultra efficiency concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) receiver combined with an optimized heliostat collector field (an array of sun-tracking mirrors).”

150327_Newbridge-mirrors2A growing number of international orders for RayGen’s CSPV technology will be backed by a Memorandum of Understanding which was signed at the unveiling between RayGen and its commercial partner, Juye Solar, for an additional capital investment of $6 million, which RayGen says “will enable RayGen to boost its manufacturing capacity.” In addition, “Juye Solar will invest a further $15 million for the development of RayGen’s offering in China.”

Speaking at the event, RayGen Chairman and CEO, Robert Cart, said the global energy industry was in the midst of its most dramatic transformation ever, creating the biggest market opportunity in history.

“The need to fulfil new energy demand requirements, along with the replacement of retired generation assets, will call for an estimated $10 trillion of investment by 2030 solely on new generation sources. The International Energy Agency estimates that around two-thirds of this will be in developing countries, and solar will take the lion’s share. Australia is capable of commercialising – in a big way – world-leading technology innovation.”

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24 thoughts on “First Of Its Kind CSPV Project Unveiled In Australia

  • That is AWESOME.

    This leads me to believe you could build a CSPV tower *into* the facade of a building. The tower would be a structural component of the building and the mirrors would be integrated into the facade.

    Or if you had 5 acres of land you could build your own 😉

    Nice aussies, nice.

    • As long as you had room for a huge parking lot covered with heliostats surrounding the building. And people didn’t mind high-intensity glare from the mirrors, the sunlight beams converging and the highly-illuminated solar cells. And the local fire code would allow you to have high temperature fluids and materials next to occupied floor space.

  • It’s hard to believe this is still competitive with PV power … and PV prices are still dropping.

    • Yes, at a glance the system does not seem competitive with straight PV. I could be wrong, though. Show us the numbers.

      • Obviously a “research” or pilot scale plant isn’t going to be cost effective and shouldn’t be judged on that basis. Nevertheless the numbers in the article are pretty startling: CSPV project cost $3.6 million … 200KW. Thats $25/watt!

        • $25 US and $18 Australian?

    • It’s not competitive with PV on cost per kWh. However, CSP can add molten salt storage at very low cost, which allows it to produce power at night or during a cloudy period (or just produce even more during a sunny spell).

      That means CSP can do something a PV plant can’t without an expensive battery bank: time its output to coincide with highest prices.

      A combined cycle gas turbine plant can’t compete on cost per kWh with more conventional fossil fuels like coal. And yet, it’s one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the west. Why? Becuase these plants can ramp up and down at leisure, selling power only when prices peak. CSP can do the same.

      • But this is not CSP. It is CPV.
        No turbines, no storage medium.
        Storage will be met by batteries anyways.

  • But what is the benefit here over either simple PV or currently available CSP? Price-wise it’s hard to see this beating simple PV, and without intermediate medium it does not seem to allow storage same way as best currently available CSP (molten salt).
    While this could be more efficient (per sq ft) than more straight-forward PV installations, amount of land area is not always the limiting factor; and just installation more panels can be more cost effective.

    • Mirrors are much cheaper than high efficiency PV cells.

      • And low/medium efficiency panels are cheaper than mirrors, plus heliostat controls, plus power tower, plus hardcore fancy cooling to keep the high eff cells from melting.

        Land use is actually poor. Mirrors are widely spaced to avoid the possibility of shading. KWs per acre are not good. Of course you can forget about capturing diffuse radiation as well -better not have many clouds.

  • there was the article on Cleantechnica of an installation of
    a 1 megawatt Solar PV in one week in Queensland.
    How much was the cost of that 1 Megawatt Solar PV installation.
    compared to the cost of this project. The numbers and prices are always confusing.

  • Commenters are missing the point (not surprising since the article does as well). The reciever in this system is a small PV unit with 40% efficiency, which RayGen claim they can push to 45% efficiency within five years. It has an ultra efficient cooling system. This is not CSP (concentrating solar power). It can’t store energy as heat. The mirrors track the sun, so it has maximum possible efficiency from dawn to dusk. It’s a pilot installation – the first one. The cost per Kw for this project does not reflect the ultimate cost achievable over the next few years.

    • Thank you for explaining this. Article itself indeed does not explain benefits well, but 40%(+) part does make sense, if mirror and control parts can be kept to efficiency similar to regular PV parks (or at least something like within 10-20%).

    • Yes, so it comes down to which is cheaper. The mirror with tracking and a small number of high cost / high efficiency PV. Or a large amount of low cost, current efficiency PV, with maybe single tracking. We have see other CSPV plants set up. So this is only a first for this company or maybe this type or CSPV.

      • Most tracking arrays need to be installed into the ground while fixed panels can be put on roofs. It all depends on how expensive it is to buy / lease land to put tracking arrays on compared to just putting PV on roofs.

        Right now, prices in the USA are trending between $3 – $4 per watt for roof-mounted arrays. (Probably 30% of this is due to permitting, delays, and other overhead associated with our unorganized government / utility involvement with solar installations).

        The CPV array in this article is $18 per watt in a place with very cheap land prices. Scaled up, we can expect a 10 – 20% cost reduction learning curve for each doubling in installed capacity and the added benefits of higher capacity factor will work in this technology’s favor as well. However, this technology also has moving parts to pump coolant and to move the mirrors, so O&M costs are higher. And the fact that cloudy conditions reduce CPV’s output much more than regular PV panels means that it isn’t applicable to as large a geographical area either.

        On the other end of the market, solar thermal’s ability to store heat and the fact that its high-temperature components are made out of metals and ceramics will work in its favor. This is the real competitor to CPV approaches since they both need similar conditions (mostly cloudless, high insolation, etc) to operate.

    • Whats the lifetime of the highly efficient Pv cells under such extreme illumination? One glitch in the cooling system and they are toast. What about operations and maintenence?

      • And that lifetime would establish the LCOE (Levelized Cost of Energy). Most energy providers use this as a common denominator for their cost of energy. I wonder why it was not addressed in the article.

      • Easy enough to monitor cell temp and turn the mirrors downward if things start heating up.

        (I’m not saying that this approach will be competitive.)

  • Back in 2006 when PV prices were still much higher than they are now, the plan was to build a 154 megawatt concentrated PV plant in the Australian state of Victoria. However, the decline in the cost of standard PV modules turned it into a not nearly as good as it was idea, and the global financial crisis didn’t do it any good either. And so this is what we get. A 200 kilowatt system about one thousandth the size of what was planned. This approach has really stiff competition in the form of standard PV, but maybe they can get the costs down to be competitive. I don’t see how, though. It is a moving target.

    • Here’s an odd thought – Why not replace the mirrors with standard PV panels? The sunlight falling on the mirrors/panels would generate as normal and light reflected from those panels (although not as bright as with a mirror) would go to the tower for the high efficiency PV.

      Anyone got any figures on how “reflective” PV panels are?

      • I don’t have figures, but if I had to guess I’d say their albedo would be about 0.1 which means they reflect 10% of the light falling on them, which is about the same as basalt. Or perhaps they are more like deep water which has an albedo of about 0.08. So, not really worth trying to do anything with that small amount of reflected light, and the light that is reflected is likely to be pretty diffuse.

        • Okay, just looked it up and one source says the albedo of solar panels is about 0.3 but that is from 6 years ago and I suspect the average will have decreased a little since then.

      • I’ve seen Ronald’s replies on the albedo factor, but to me there’s a different question.
        Would the angles needed to reflect the light into the CPV be the optimum for the regular panels to absorb the light they need to generate power.
        I think that optimizing for either the PV, or the CPV would end up putting them at cross purposes so cause a loss in one or the other.

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