New research study seeks to quantify the network benefits from deploying solar thermal electricity generation in the NEM

Electricity network augmentation costs are currently the largest contributor to regulated electricity cost increases in Australia’s National Electricity Market, contributing nearly half of the average 18% increase in prices that took effect in New South Wales on 1 July 2012.

Recent studies in Europe, the US and Australia have identified potential for concentrating solar thermal (CST) generation to assist in reducing future network augmentation costs.

Network investment of over $45 billion is planned across Australia in the current regulatory period to 2014/15, with almost $15 billion of this investment driven by capacity constraints due to increasing peak demand.  A similar level of network investment may be required in the following period to 2020, and the draft Energy White Paper forecasts network investment of up to $120 billion to 2030.

AUSTELA, the Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS) and the Centre for Environmental and Energy Markets (UNSW) will shortly commence a new study – ‘The Potential Network Benefits of Solar Thermal Electricity Generation in the NEM’ to:

  • identify and map locations where CST could provide cost-effective network support, and
  • quantify the value that providing network support services could yield for CST electricity generators, and the resulting cost-effective CST capacity that could be installed between now and 2020.

The study is being undertaken in collaboration with major distribution network service providers Essential Energy (NSW) and Ergon Energy (Qld), and with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

CST output is by nature aligned to Australia’s dominant summer peak demand, and thermal inertia inherent in CST systems provides a high level of predictability for a renewable energy source.   Adding thermal storage increases a CST plant’s capacity factor and dispatchability, allowing CST plants to deliver power when it is most needed in the network.

Because CST can be deployed with or without storage, at a variety of scales, and can be hybridized (for example with biomass or natural gas) grid integration and the potential network services offered by CST systems are remarkably flexible. 

This collaborative study builds on the findings of the recently released review ‘Realising the Potential of Concentrating Solar Power in Australia’, funded by the Australian Solar Institute.  As with that review, the new study is intended to assist regulators, policy-makers, investors and market participants better assess the value and benefits of CST electricity generation in Australia’s energy system.

‘The Potential Network Benefits of Solar Thermal Electricity Generation in the NEM’ commences in September and is due to report by March 2013.

World’s Largest Linear Fresnel Solar Power Station Commences Operation

AUSTELA member Novatec Solar has announced the commencement of operations of its 30MW Puerto Errado 2 (PE2) concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) station in Spain, the largest CSP plant in the world using linear Fresnel CSP solar array technology.

Novatec Solar is majority owned by Australia's Transfield Holdings. Global power and automation company ABB acquired a 35% interest in Novatec Solar in 2011.

Transfield Holdings' leadership in the development of Novatec Solar's technology, manufacturing capabilities, and project development and delivery capabilities, is a leading example of the ability of Australian industry to innovate and commercialise solar thermal power technologies.

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AUSTELA and other solar energy bodies collaborate to present CSP perspectives at ARENA's National Consultation Forum

As part of the consultation program being implemented by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to inform the development of its funding guidelines and program strategy, ARENA held a National Consultation Forum in Melbourne on 21 August 2012. AUSTELA was asked to make a presentation at the Forum on behalf of the concentrating solar thermal power industry in Australia.

AUSTELA's presentation highlights the versatility of solar thermal power technologies, the high value of CSP generation, the value of thermal energy storage in Australia's future electricity system, and the potential for broader application of CSP in emerging high-value segments such as solar fuels.

The presentation also highlights the potential for CSP to help reduce electricity network costs that are the major drivers of electricity price rises, an issue to be addressed in detail in AUSTELA's upcoming research study, 'The Potential Network Benefits of Solar Thermal Power Generation in the NEM'.

Building on the findings of the major report 'Realising the Potential for Concentrating Solar Power in Australia', the presentation offered proposals for ARENA's new programs for the support of large-scale solar thermal power in Australia.

The presentation can be viewed here.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency call for submissions - general funding strategy

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has released a consultation draft of its General Funding Strategy, and is seeking submissions by 27 August 2012.

The general funding strategy will set the principal objectives and priorities for ARENA’s activities and define the manner in which ARENA will be able to provide financial assistance for the development and deployment of renewable energy technology.

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Solar Generation. Australian Market Modelling

Building on the evidence in the major industry report 'Realising the Potential for CSP in Australia, a new report - also released on 6 June 2012 - provides further analysis illustrating the value of solar thermal power in the Australian electricity market.

The Australian Solar Institute commissioned ROAM Consulting to conduct detailed modelling of the interaction between solar generation and the Australian electricity markets in order to identify the potential value of solar generation (including the incremental value of energy storage and gas hybridisation of solar thermal power) in the market.

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Contact Details

Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association Ltd
ACN: 149 005 210
PO Box 6127
ACT 2602, Australia