Australian mirrors helping to power Cyprus

Australian-made mirrors are helping the Mediterranean nation of Cyprus move to renewable energy and secure its supply of drinking water.

Though Cyprus is blessed with plentiful sunshine, rainfall is low and the country depends on energy-intensive desalination plants for its drinking water.

Solar thermal power generation is one way for Cyprus to maintain its power supply while cutting carbon emissions. In partnership with the Cyprus Institute, researchers from CSIRO’s Energy Centre in Newcastle have built a small solar thermal plant at Pentakomo on the south coast of the island.

The plant uses a field of 50 small mirrors – known as heliostats – to reflect sunlight towards a receiver on top of a central tower. The concentrated light heats molten salt which is then used to generate electricity and power a desalination plant. The molten salt also retains its heat to use when the sun isn’t shining.

CSIRO’s heliostats are smaller than many others, which gives finer control over the plant’s output, and are designed for rugged conditions.

Wes Stein, the leader of the CSIRO solar research program, says the collaboration grew out of his long friendship with Costas Papanicolas, the President of the Cyprus Institute.

The plant was built in 2015, and an expansion is now on the drawing board. The larger plant could demonstrate the technology and help promote it across the Mediterranean and in the Middle East.

CSIRO researchers are also working with the EU’s STAGE-STE consortium to develop solar thermal power generation, and are developing technology for solar steam turbines and storage in partnership with the Spanish company Abengoa.

Banner image: The field of heliostats in Cyprus concentrating sunlight. Credit: The Cyprus Institute