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Australia-US thermal storage technology progresses to demonstration phase

26 March 2021

The United States Department of Energy will fund a commercial-scale test of a next-generation energy storage technology developed in partnership with the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI).  

The technology converts sunlight into stored thermal energy, by heating particles to well over 700 deg C. This thermal energy can then be used to power a turbine, generating on-demand electricity at any time of the day or night.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said the technology was developed with input from CSIRO, the Australian National University and the University of Adelaide.

“Australian research is opening up new ways to generate clean electricity and reducing emissions around the world,” Minister Taylor said.

“The technologies Australia is developing, and the Government is supporting, will deliver global benefits.

“Australian-developed solar cell technology is already used in more than 60 per cent of commercial solar panels globally.

“Zero emissions, dispatchable energy sources like concentrated solar thermal storage will be needed to back up increasing shares of renewable energy.”

Low-cost, grid-scale energy storage is one of five priority areas for investment under the Morrison Government’s Technology Investment Roadmap. The Biden Administration has also announced it will target low-cost energy storage. 

Sandia Laboratories, a private energy R&D agency based in New Mexico, will receive $33 million (US$25 million) from the US Department of Energy to build a 1MW demonstration plant with a minimum of 6 hours of storage. 

CSIRO has already built a pilot-scale facility in Newcastle. That facility will be tested for the first time in coming weeks.

Australia’s involvement in the project has been managed by ASTRI, a $100 million consortium established through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and CSIRO.

In January 2021, Minister Taylor and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry agreed to establish a joint Australia-US working group to advance cooperation on low emissions technologies. 

Media contact: Minister Taylor's office 02 6277 7120