solar at night

Storing the sun's energy during the day,

Powering Australia overnight

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is a technology that can generate 100% renewable energy, replacing night-time electricity generation currently provided by coal-and gas-fired power plants.

Why Solar Thermal ?

Managing climate change will require countries to transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Australia has begun its transition, but is still highly reliant on fossil fuels for electricity generation, particularly overnight.

The cheapest forms of renewable energy, namely solar PV and wind, are variable - so the amount of energy they can produce depends on the amount of sunlight or the strength of the wind. This creates a number of problems:

The Challenge

The Solution

Electricity systems need a firm and stable supply of electricity to meet the 24/7 demand of households and businesses.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) can provide a firm and stable supply of renewable electricity overnight - from sunset to sunrise.

Solar PV and wind cannot provide the nighttime stability required to meet Australia’s needs.

CSP concentrates the daytime heat energy from the sun, which is then stored and used to produce multiple-hours of renewable electricity overnight.

Coal fired power plants currently meet most of Australia’s need for firm and stable supply of electricity, particularly overnight.

CSP’s long-duration thermal energy storage (TES) is used to run a steam turbine in the same way as that used at a coal-fired power plant, and is 100% renewable.

Battery storage linked to Solar PV and wind can address some of the problem, but batteries are only cost effective for several hours, and are cost prohibitive for overnight requirements.

CSP can displace all forms of fossil fired generation outside of daytime hours - which is the missing piece in Australia’s low emission, high penetration renewable energy future.

On-Demand Renewable Energy

CSP systems convert sunlight into multiple hours of thermal energy storage (TES). This energy is then used at a later time to generate power, meaning CSP can dispatch power overnight, or at anytime during the day when there is insufficient sun or wind.

CSP is used to complement Solar PV and wind as part of an integrated low-cost energy system. Solar PV and wind, with several hours of battery storage, can provide low-cost renewable power during the day, with CSP providing firm and secure power overnight when the sun has stopped shining and the wind is intermittent. This integrated system will deliver the lowest aggregate cost to consumers, while maintaining system security and reliability, with zero emissions.

CSP systems use mirrors to concentrate sunlight by up to 1000 times its normal intensity. The concentrated sunlight, in the form of heat, is then transferred into a molten salt thermal energy storage (TES) system. The heat in the TES is used for between 12 to 15 hours to run a steam turbine with a synchronous generator for power production. CSP's synchronous generator allows the system to deliver the essential grid support services – inertia, system strength and frequency control – currently provided by coal and gas generators.

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Zero Emissions

Long-Duration
Energy Storage  

Thumbs Up

Dispatchable
And Reliable 

Cost-Effective 

Scalable

Criteria

Capacity factor
Demand sweet spot
Siting flexibility
Arbitrage business model
Economically viable
Storage economics
Grid services
Zero emissions
Long-duration
energy storage  
Synchronous
Process heat

Pumped Hydro

NA (storage only)
Peak or Intermediate load
Very Low

Wind/PV + Battery

20-50%
Evening or morning shoulder
Moderate
Limited duration
Stackable
Some

CSP

40-60%
Nighttime
Moderate

Zero Emissions

Long-Duration
Energy Storage  

Thumbs Up

Dispatchable
And Reliable 

Cost-Effective 

Scalable

Criteria

Demand sweet spot
Siting flexibility
Business model
MW cost
MWH cost
Storage economics
Grid services
Zero emissions
Long-duration
energy storage  
Synchronous
Process heat

Pumped Hydro

Peak or Intermediate load
Low
Mainly arbitrage + grid services
High
Low
Economies of scale

Battery

Evening or morning shoulder
Good
Mainly grid services + some arbitrage
Low
High
Stackable
Some

CSP

Nighttime
Good
Dispatchable generation + grid services + arbitrage
High
Low
Economies of scale

Australia’s Future Energy Supply

Australia can produce more solar energy per m2 than any other country in the world. We have the solar resource, it’s just a matter of storing it.

Solar PV can be coupled with batteries to provide a storage solution, but these battery systems are only cost effective for several hours of energy storage. CSP is one of only a few technology options that offers long-duration (12-15 hours) intra-day renewable energy storage that is emissions-free. Pumped Hydro is another option, but it relies on stored water which is scarce and unreliable beyond our coastal mountain ranges. We need access to a technology that complements solar PV and wind, by providing a source of firm, secure, long-duration power generation overnight. CSP is the renewable option that delivers the lowest cost, emissions-free overnight power generation, and allows the removal of coal and gas from the grid.

The sun falling on 1% of Australia’s landmass (75,000Km2) provides enough energy to meet 30 times Australia’s electricity needs.

AEMO’s 2022 ISP highlights that coal fired-power generation assets are exiting the market sooner than expected, creating a gap in firm and stable power generation, particularly overnight.

Generating renewable power overnight, to replace coal fired power plants, will require significant investment in energy storage.

In countries with high solar radiation like Australia, CSP is one of the most cost effective forms of  longer duration energy storage for renewable power generation overnight.

Solar Thermal Globally

Solar Thermal is being deployed at scale in sunny countries around the world.

111

CSP plants globally, providing net zero power generation at night. China and Spain expect to commission another 40 CSP plants by 2030.

24/7

Dispatchable capability of CSP installations in sun belt countries.

8-17 HRS

Typical energy storage duration of recent CSP plants.

70 GW

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has indicated that CSP installations will need to reach 70GW globally by 2030 to meet emissions targets.
A world map

USA

1731 MW installed capacity

Morocco

533 MW installed capacity
800 MW in development

China

1081 MW installed capacity
400 MW in development

Australia

30 MW in development

Middle East

477 MW installed capacity
743 MW in development

Media

Media Releases, Policy and Research

CSP - A Key Technology to Decarbonise the World

This briefing is intended to showcase CSP technology and why it has a key role to play in the energy transition in Australia and all high solar resource countries.

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Australia an Emerging Market for CSP

With Australia committing to 43% emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050, attention is increasingly turning to the need for renewables that incorporate long-term energy storage and dispatchability. That is preciselywhat CSP offers.

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Response to, Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water

The Australian Solar Thermal Industry Association (AUSTELA) responses to, Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water in the Submission Capacity Investment Scheme.

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Contact Us

We’re building relationships with partners around Australia who are committed to proving the utility and industrial scalability of concentrated solar thermal power, and the crucial role the technology plays in our net zero future.

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