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Project overview
  • Lead Organisation

    CSIRO

    Location

    Newcastle, New South Wales

    ARENA Program

    Australian Solar Institute

  • Start Date

    April 2011

    Status

    Past

  • Project Partners
    None
    This renewables project was completed on 16 April 2015.

Summary

The Thermoelectric Generator for Concentrated Solar Thermal Systems project developed and applied high-performance thermoelectric materials and technologies to concentrated solar thermal (CST) systems.

TEGs have the potential to increase the efficiency of a solar power plant by making the most of the heat generated. In stand-alone systems the electricity produced by the TEG may be used to power the system (pumps and control systems) or provide local power in remote locations.

The technology also has the potential to be scaled to larger CST steam systems which utilise Rankine-cycle (steam) turbine power plants, and thereby has the potential to lower the delivered cost of the electricity by as much as 10%.

Key results

The Thermoelectric Generator for Concentrated Solar Thermal Systems project has provided an improved understanding of the technical aspects of the path to market. In general terms the system does do what it set out to do by combining a TEG topping cycle with solar cooling, with future work likely to include the implementation of non-oxide thermoelectric materials and lessening the thermal losses in the system so as to increase overall efficiency. With such improvements in efficiency, the Stand-alone Solar Cooling Systems can become self-sufficient and thus deliver cooling in remote locations.

The test bed, and specifically the 10 kW scale dishes and the 10 kW double effect absorption chiller developed within this project, are already being proposed for use in future solar thermal projects in the areas of solar cooling and solar reforming of natural gas.

Further details of the project outcomes and lessons learned, including the Design and Operation of Stand-alone Solar Cooling Systems Utilising Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy, and Thermoelectric Receivers, are available in the report.

Last updated
01 February 2021

Need

CST power plants use mirrors to concentrate energy from the sun onto a receiver, where the thermal energy can then be used for various purposes such as heating a fluid to drive a turbine that generates electricity.

Incorporating a thermoelectric generator (TEG) into a two-stage CST system allows the heat rejected by the TEG to be utilised in a secondary process, which could lead to improved efficiencies and potentially lower costs.

Project innovation

Thermoelectric materials are a type of semiconductor that produces electrical power when one end of the device is kept hotter than the other. Specifically, researchers at UNSW and CSIRO developed oxide-based semiconductors in partnership and applied them in various types of TEG-solar receivers to enhance the efficiency of the receiver. The TEG is heated by solar radiation and the excess heat from the TEG was utilised in an absorption chiller suitable for cold food storage or building air conditioning.

CSIRO tested this technology on a stand-alone solar cooling system (i.e. creating cold air from sunshine) designed for medium-scale applications.

CSIRO’s other partner in the project, Thermax Ltd, is an engineering and manufacturing company operating from India with experience in thermal heating and cooling. Thermax’s role in the project was to develop a solar collector/receiver technology that was optimised for the solar thermoelectric generator as well as developing and supplying a system that utilises rejected heat from TEG including an absorption chiller.

Benefit

TEGs have the potential to increase the efficiency of a solar power plant by making the most of the heat generated. In stand-alone systems the electricity produced by the TEG may be used to power the system (pumps and control systems) or provide local power in remote locations.

The technology also has the potential to be scaled to larger CST steam systems which utilise Rankine-cycle (steam) turbine power plants, and thereby has the potential to lower the delivered cost of the electricity by as much as 10%.

Last updated 01 February 2021
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