The future of hybrid power

As many countries in the world look for ways to transition to low-carbon societies in the face of high electricity prices, greenhouse gas pollution and limited resources, an increasing number of potential solutions to these challenges are appearing.

With this growing interest in clean and renewable technology options, Australia's government is making investigations into the use of hybrid power plants.

Hybrid technology is a fusion of renewable energy generation technology with other systems. An example of this would be a power plant combining solar thermal energy with thermal power from gas, or even another form of renewable energy.

This is often touted as a way to smooth the transition from fossil fuel generated power to renewable energy, reducing risk for investors.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) released its three-year Investment Plan on July 10, and this new Plan includes a focus on exploring opportunities for renewable energy hybrid power plants.

"The Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) new Investment Plan builds on over half a billion dollars of existing funding opportunities already on the table to increase the supply and improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies in Australia, and outlines the potential for five new initiatives," said minister for resources and energy Gary Gray.

The new plan outlined its first step, which will start with a study exploring opportunities for hybrid plants where renewable energy can be cost competitive with fossil fuel energy generation.

"This approach recognises that changing the energy landscape is a process of transition and aims to pave the way for stand alone renewable energy plants by first building confidence, knowledge and expertise around new technologies in a hybrid setting."

One advantage of combining energy sources such as solar thermal with fossil fuel production is that it can boost generation capacity during times of peak demand - while also reducing levels of harmful carbon pollution.

Other areas of focus in the Investment Plan include finding ways to overcome barriers to the commercialisation of renewable energy, and developing activities beyond solar technologies.

In addition, the Plan hopes to develop and achieve a commercial readiness index for each renewable energy technology. This would be a world-leading project with the ability to help identify how government agencies can support the development of each technology.

Posted by Charlie Moore