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Solar thermal energy in Australia

Solar thermal energy, a way of harnessing solar energy to be used for thermal energy or heat, is becoming a more widely adopted technology in Australia as society looks to stabilise electricity prices.

Minister for resources and energy Gary Gray launched a set of online tools supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). These tools will help researchers, developers and financiers to assess the commercial viability of Concentrating Thermal power projects.

"Concentrating solar thermal systems have the potential to play a significant role in future electricity networks as they can store energy, which means clean energy can be dispatched to homes and businesses at anytime of the day or night," said Mr Gray.

"These new tools - which will optimise an industry-leading United States model for Australian conditions - will make it easier for developers and financiers to assess the commercial viability of concentrating solar thermal projects."

In a fine display of nations working together, the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed the System Advisor Model (SAM). Through a $73,500 investment from ARENA, this was adapted for Australian conditions through the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association (AUSTELA).

These tools can help to assess the viability of proposed sites, the economic performance of a system and the overall financial practicalities of a project. Mr Gray says that this type of analysis is crucial to attract investors.

Posted by Charlie Moore