UniSA, Heliostat and Precision Components partner to drive plastic heliostat development

Precision Components Australia Pty Ltd has partnered with the University of South Australia (UniSA) to open the concentrated solar (CPV) research field in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. The trial includes 25 heliostats each measuring 7.2 square meter and a 15-metre-tall concentrated solar PV receiver, which can generate about 30 kW of electricity per hour. Heliostats concentrate sunlight onto a tower, and depending on the type of receiver unit, either heat molten salt to generate steam to power turbines to generate electricity or convert sunlight directly into electricity using a high efficiency solar cell receiver. The tower at the trial site can be adapted to trial both direct PV and molten salt technologies.
Currently heliostats installed worldwide use glass with a thin layer of silver located at the rear of the glass so the light from the sun needs to travel twice through the glass material, the glass is also heavy, fragile and hard to install, says UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation Tanya Monro. »We believe if we can use some of the innovations in this area to make plastic heliostats where the coatings are on the front they will be lighter, less fragile, cheaper and stay cleaner for longer.«
Lead researcher and Industry Professor at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute, Peter Murphy says, »heliostats need to withstand heat, cold, rain, UV light exposure and abrasion by sand, often in harsh, arid environments. To be really effective »they must have a lifetime of 25 to 30 years and that presents a huge set of challenges at a macro and nano scale.« Long term research goal is to develop ultra-high reflectivity mirror coatings on polycarbonate to underpin lighter, more efficient heliostats that stay cleaner for longer.
Key industry partners on the project are Precision Components and Heliostat SA. Heliostat designs and manufactures solar energy technologies for both the concentrated solar power and PV tracking industry sectors. Precision Component is a South Australian-owned manufacturer and supplier of specialized press metal, fabricated components and assembly solutions to a range of industries, including the renewables sector and defense.

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