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Car component maker changes lanes to solar future

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Posted June 10, 2015

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS), which received funding from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment to “develop and verify technologies for enhancing measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” will establish a field of 150 heliostats in Yokohama to run research projects.

CSIRO’s heliostat field in Newcastle which will be replicated on a smaller scale in Japan.

CSIRO’s heliostat field in Newcastle which will be replicated on a smaller scale in Japan.

The project is also a welcome boost to the car industry, with the CSIRO-designed heliostats being constructed by a South Australian manufacturing company actively coping with the downturn in the automotive industry. Heliostat SA was created with the support of four South Australian companies: Precision Components, a company heavily involved in the car industry; The University of South Australia; May Brothers and Enersalt.

It is the second international deployment of CSIRO’s solar thermal technology, following on from a similar project in Cyprus.

CSIRO’s Energy and Resources Executive Director Dr Alex Wonhas said the two projects were a strong vote of confidence for the science agency’s solar capabilities.

“These projects are the fruits of more than a decade of solar thermal research emanating from our energy centre in Newcastle and demonstrate the growing worldwide appetite for concentrated solar power,” he said.

“To have CSIRO’s heliostats selected by MHPS, a global leader in energy, proves that our technology is up there with the best in the world. Our successful collaboration with Heliostat SA also shows the benefits of science working closely with industry to create value for the Australian economy.”

Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane today visited the plant operated by Heliostat SA at Beverley, in Adelaide’s western suburbs. The Australian Government provided $1 million of matched funding from its Automotive Diversification Programme to Precision Components which enabled the car manufacturer to diversify into renewable energy.

Solar thermal tower technology uses a field of mirrors whose angle is under computer control (heliostats), each of which rotates accurately to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver on top of a tower. In this application the concentrated sunlight is used to create superheated steam, which can then be used to drive a turbine for generating electricity.

Energy can be stored cheaply as heat in solar thermal systems, giving this technology great potential for medium to large scale power, even when the sun isn’t shining.

The CSIRO heliostat design is unique. It is smaller than conventional heliostats, and uses an advanced control system to get high performance from a relatively inexpensive design.

Source: CSIRO

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