Australia, despite its abundant solar energy resources, still heavily relies on fossil fuels for its electricity grid. However, a breakthrough in concentrated solar thermal (CST) research using ceramic particles could revolutionize renewable energy storage. The technology involves using mirrors to concentrate sunlight, converting it to heat, which can then be stored or used to generate electricity. The new development is the use of ceramic particles, which act as a battery, storing solar energy as heat for up to 15 hours.
These tiny ceramic particles, capable of enduring temperatures over 1000°C, offer a reliable and cost-effective way to store high-temperature heat. In traditional CSTs, heat transfer fluids like molten salt or high-temperature oil are used, but they have limitations in the temperatures they can handle. The use of ceramic particles simplifies the system and reduces costs. The particles are heated as they fall through focused solar energy and are then stored in a silo. When needed, they can be used to produce steam for power generation or other industrial tasks.
This new solar thermal technology could potentially play a vital role in industrial decarbonization, which makes up 20% of Australia’s energy use. CST with ceramic particles offers a renewable power source that can be utilized even when the sun isn’t shining, such as during the night or on cloudy days. It complements photovoltaic (PV) solar energy, which provides power when the sun is shining. With the closure of coal-fired power stations being accelerated, CST could help fill the gap and provide a green alternative for reliable power generation.
– Fran Molloy and Amanda Dunne, “Breakthrough solar thermal research uses ceramic particles like a battery,” The Sydney Morning Herald