ASTRI was initiated as an 8-year Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) under the United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC) in November 2012. The ASTRI research initiative was designed to support the emerging Australian CST industry, with research to reduce the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) for CST, integrate closely with the complementary ‘SunShot’ programme of the United States’ Department of Energy, and train a new cohort of high-quality and industry-aware graduates with the required CST skillset.
The broad objective of ASTRI is to deliver cost reductions and dispatchability improvements to concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) and position Australia in CST. ASTRI has coordinated a focussed collaborative programme with rigorously prioritised efforts informed by an overarching economic model.
Focus areas for ASTRI collaborative CST research are:
- Reduced project capital cost;
- Increased utilisation of equipment (capacity factor);
- Improved efficiency; and
- Minimised operation and maintenance costs.
For the first time in Australia, ASTRI has brought together leading researchers from six Australian universities and CSIRO, under the coordination of CSIRO, to work towards the following major outcomes:
- A large-scale collaboration on CST across Australia serving as platform for new international linkages;
- A step-change in the commitment of Australian researchers to the success of CST;
- Highly-trained graduates ready to deliver success in CST industries;
- Relevant research outputs: novel technologies, concepts, know-how, publications and patents;
- Commercialisable outcomes from the ASTRI research program; and
- Researchers equipped to engage in the science and technology debates that may underpin Government policy towards CST adoption.
ASTRI has successfully achieved all stipulated technical and capability based key performance indicators (KPIs) since its inception. Feedback from ARENA suggests ASTRI should also take responsibility for additional goals, designed to explore and promote the value proposition of niche market applications of CST technology in the Australian context – ‘an Australian CST Strategy’.
The aim of this focus is to support and validate ARENA’s continued investment in CST R&D and influence the CST sector in Australia to ‘opt-into’ and advocate for its adoption so as to drive commercialisation and creation of industry.
ASTRI has worked to accommodate these added responsibilities through a combination of leadership team time and focus and communications resources to achieve its goals.
With this added responsibility in mind and cognisant of the requirement to clearly demonstrate value and opportunity for return on investment (ROI) for Australia public, ASTRI outlines:
- The reasons why Australia should continue to invest in CST R&D (in general), and in ASTRI in particular, by outlining general considerations about the value proposition of CST technologies, global opportunities, challenges and lessons learnt overseas, that frame the recommended CST strategy for Australia;
- An overarching CST strategy for Australia, that incorporates both core and niche market applications for the technology in the Australian context; and
- modifications the ASTRI program to fully align with the overall CST strategy for Australia and to maximise the impact of the program for the country.