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National Solar Energy Centre

The NSEC is an Australian solar energy research program that falls under the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). CSIRO has the goal of advancing clean energy sources, combating global warming, and reducing the use and pollution of all natural resources. The NSEC is the solar research branch of CSIRO that focuses on large-scale solar applications, particularly concentrated solar power.

Concentrated Solar Power

The NSEC began construction on a CSP tower system in Newcastle, Australia. The tower uses compressed air instead of steam to turn a turbine, making it somewhat unique in large-scale power generation facilities. The systems will produce enough energy to power 200 homes and is being designed as a national and international research facility for CSP.

Photovoltaics

CSIRO also invests resources in PV research, particular organic PV cells. Their focus is less on improving the characteristics of current technology and more on discovering and advancing future PV technology. Projects in this category include organic and dye-sensitive cells as well as work on understanding solar intermittency and how to create a stable grid supply of electricity using solar.

Dye-sensitive research at the NSEC is focused on improving the conversion efficiency of dye-based solar cells to levels near to that of current silicon cells. It is also investigating how to improve the durability and lifespan of dye-based technology, which is particularly susceptible to cold. The NSEC is interested in dye technology for its low cost, sustainability, and architectural appeal.

Organic research is focused on similar objectives as dye research. Organic cells are of interest for their low cost, ease of manufacture, and ultra light weights. They are also one of the most environmentally friendly solar cells.

Solar Cooling

Active solar cooling and solar air conditioning is a particular area of interest to CSIRO as heating and cooling typically account for over half of the energy used in a building. Australia, on its hottest days, experiences a doubling in its electricity demand due to the use of air conditioning.

CSIRO is investigating technologies that will use solar thermal energy to provide both heating and cooling. They are investigating absorption cooling, which is found in some heat pumps, as well as desiccant cooling, which use moisture evaporation to cool air. CSIRO is one of the leading solar cooling research facilities in the world.

Storage

Storage of energy from solar power is one of the most difficult challenges in the industry. Thermal, chemical, and electrical means have been investigated, but no permanent solution has yet been found. CSIRO is looking at thermal storage and heat transfer systems for CSP as well as battery technology for storage of electricity and even natural gas.
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