THE new head of Australia's solar thermal research effort says the cost of generating electricity can be halved by 2020, placing it on course to match the renewable energy contribution from solar photovoltaic technologies.
Manuel Blanco, an international specialist in solar energy, started on Monday as director of the CSIRO-led Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative. The initiative has $87 million in funding over eight years to advance concentrating solar power technologies, which typically tap solar energy using mirrors or lenses to drive steam turbines.
Dr Blanco said a "technological leap" would be needed to cut generation costs from 25¢ a kilowatt-hour to 12¢ by 2020 but collaborative efforts between Australian and overseas scientists could achieve the goal. Costs have fallen by about 25 per cent over the past five years. "The market for concentrating solar thermal power is not as developed right now as for photovoltaics, but it will get at least as developed," he said.
Dr Blanco, whose posts include directing the solar thermal energy department of Spain's National Renewable Energy Centre, said Australia was an obvious place to focus research.