The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is undertaking a new project, partly funded by the Australian Solar Institute, where solar thermal power will provide the additional energy required to capture CO2 in a coal-fired power plant. With their new technology, they argue that solar thermal can be an effective and cheap way to make CO2 capture and storage (CCS) commercially viable.
One of the hurdles with CCS is the additional energy that is required to capture the emissions. The result is that the full capacity of the initial plant is not used for power generation. In theory, a 600MW coal-fired plant’s capacity could be reduced to around 450MW. In CSIRO’s new project, the energy needed would be produced from solar thermal technology in the form of heat.
James McGregor, project leader, says that using solar thermal to deliver steam for a power station is very attractive since the steam can be produced at a range of different temperatures. The CO2 would initially be stored in liquid absorbents until the solar thermal energy is available, which would provide greater flexibility in operation and potentially cost less than storing the solar thermal energy by other means.
CSIRO will test the technology with parabolic trough technology at a 100kW CO2 capture pilot plant in the Vales Point power station, but any solar thermal technology could be used in future applications. The project is expected to commence in June.