ASTRI Director appointed Chairman of international solar thermal collaboration

Dr Manuel Blanco to lead SolarPACES for third consecutive term

Newcastle, Australia – 26th October 2015 – Dr Manuel Blanco, Director of ASTRI, Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative, has been re-elected as Chairman of the Executive Committee for SolarPACES – the international network of independent experts on Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) and Solar Chemistry technologies.

This is Dr Blanco’s third consecutive term as Chairman of the organisation, a reflection of his valued contribution to the CST community. He will serve in the role for the next two years.

Dr Blanco recently addressed researchers from around the world at the annual SolarPACES conference in Cape Town. He spoke of the need for a focus on increased collaboration ahead of competitive interests at this time, to ensure the industry presents a strong case for CST and solar chemistry technologies in the global renewable energy mix, and an improved picture of cost-competitiveness for both solutions.

“I am honoured to be re-elected as Chairman of SolarPACES, particularly at a time when matters of energy security, clean-energy production, clean technology skills and industry development are so high on the global agenda” Dr Blanco said.

“Concentrating Solar Thermal and Solar Chemistry technologies have an important role to play on each of these fronts. CST technologies can deliver the clean, sustainable and dispatchable energy we require to power our modern lifestyles while Solar Chemistry can contribute to the solarisation of transport and other energy intensive sectors.

“This vision will only be realised though if global collaborations, such as the one represented by SolarPACES, continue to grow.

“The international solar community must strengthen its efforts to improve the cost-effectiveness of solar thermal technologies and to increase the awareness of policymakers about the need to establish policies and market signals that acknowledge the additional value these technologies provide – value such as the ability to store collected solar energy as thermal energy and deliver it as electricity when needed.

“ASTRI is an excellent example of a collaboration that has built skills and focused expertise on increasing the cost-competitiveness of CST technologies in the Australian context. In the past three years, ASTRI has grown from a team of just a handful of specialists in solar thermal technology to now more than 100 researchers dedicated to making CST a more cost-competitive energy solution.

“In my tenure as Chairman, I will continue to work to align worldwide research efforts to facilitate technology development, market deployment and energy partnerships that deliver sustainable, reliable and cost-competitive CST technologies,” Dr Blanco said.

For ASTRI, Dr Blanco’s re-election will contribute to the continued collaboration, knowledge sharing and partnerships with international leaders in the CST space where commercial deployments are well underway. According to figures from the International Energy Agency’s 2014 ‘Solar Thermal Electricity Roadmap’ – by 2050 solar energy could become the largest source of electricity worldwide, and CST power plants could satisfy 11% of the global electricity needs.

The 2015 SolarPACES conference was well attended with more than 550 participants from across 38 countries including 26 representatives from Australia. Dr Blanco addressed the conference as SolarPACES Chairperson in the opening and closing plenary sessions and will also present at this year’s Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference in Brisbane in December.

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Media Enquiries:

Kate Hines, Communications Advisor, ASTRI


Phone: +61 2 4960 6100 or +61 413 070 925


  • ASTRI is an eight year international collaboration with leading research institutions, industry bodies and universities that will position Australia in concentrating solar thermal (CST) technologies. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing up to $35 million to support the $87.3 million initiative.
  • ASTRI’s focus is on reducing the costs to build CST power plants, increase the efficiency of their operation and their outputs and build the skills and capability necessary to make solar power the cheapest, cleanest energy source it can be.
    • We are doing this through the combined resource and expertise of our Australian and international University and research partners – some of the best known and most highly regarded institutions in the world
  • Australia is precisely the location that this research and development should be taking place.
    • Our space, geography and exposure to direct sunlight make Australia the ideal location for commercial-scale solar thermal energy generation.
  • CST technologies present a clear economic and social opportunity for Australia
    • Full commercialisation of CST technology will build industry, create jobs and transition Australia to a low-carbon, renewable economy on a global stage
    • To ensure Australia is positioned to capitalise on this opportunity, it is important that there is significant support for both research and the development of CST industries locally.  ASTRI is a big part of this research and capacity building effort.
  • In ASTRI, we want to deliver the next wave of energy technology at a scale that makes CST competitive, not only with current renewable energy sources, but also traditional fossil fuel power stations.
    • The technology and capability that we are producing within ASTRI will position Australia on the global stage in this sector while creating jobs, local industry and skills for our future.


About CST

  • Concentrating solar thermal technology is harnessing the sun’s energy in the form of thermal energy. There are three key benefits of concentrating solar thermal technology over other renewable and non-renewable energy sources:
    • A concentrating solar thermal (CST) power station uses established technology that is readily available (mirrors, tubes, steam and gas turbines and electrical generators).
    • CST technology can provide dispatachable power (stored power that can be produced even when the sun is not shining) which greatly assists in providing a stable grid; and
    • As well as solar electricity production, CST technology can also be used to produce liquid fuels suitable for automobiles and aircrafts.