2 Australian scientists honoured for work in solar thermal technology

2 Australian scientists have been awarded Member of the order of Australia medals for their work in the realm of solar thermal–or concentrating solar power (CSP)–technology. Dr David Mills, a former Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sydney and Professor Graham Morrison of UNSW received the award during Australia Day celebrations. The two were selected for having made signifiant contributions towards making solar thermal technology commercially viable. 

Among their most noteworthy achievements is the development of Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) technology, where flat mirrors are positioned to focus sunlight on tubes full of water, which once heated can be used to spin turbines and generate electricity. In 2005, Solar Heat and Power Pty Ltd, a company was founded in part by Dr Mills and Professor Morrison, provided the CLFR technology that was deployed as a retrofitted add-on to NSW’s coal-fired Liddell Power Station.

Following the global recognition that this project earned them, the two then went on to found Ausra and move to the United States to seek funding for larger projects. There they set up a factory in Nevada and constructed the first plant in the country to use their CLFR technology–a 4 megawatt (MW) plant in California.

Ausra was purchased by French energy giant Areva in 2010 and was renamed to Areva Solar. Among the other projects currently deployed or under development by Areva Solar are Queensland’s 44MW Kogan Creek ‘Solar Boost’ project–also attached to a coal plant–and a 100MW plant in India.

Both of the medal recipients are fierce proponents of harnessing the sun to meet the world’s electricity needs. “There really is no choice. The energy supplies that we have currently got, coal and gas, we have only got for another 100 years – that is the timespan of our grandchildren,” said Dr Morrison. “There is no question [solar power] has to happen, it is just a matter of how quickly do we make it happen.”

Dr Mills was similarly optimistic about the increasingly important role of renewable energy sources. “It is hard to find two other more apt energy sources than solar and wind at this moment…I think they will be the heavy-load bearers for the future.”

Top image via Kogan Solar Boost

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