Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson and Member for Newcastle, Sharon Grierson officially opened the CSIRO Solar Tower which will focus on solar tower research, development and commercialisation in the Hunter Region.


The 30 metre high solar tower will initially be used to develop and test a solar air turbine, which will generate electricity from air and sunshine only.


The tower is surrounded by 450 locally manufactured custom designed mirrors (heliostats) is capable of generating temperatures of up to 1,500° Celsius. The increased temperatures mean higher efficiency and lower costs.


The facility will also be used to research solar energy storage, high temperature steam generation, solarised fuels and thermoelectric generators.


The CSIRO project has attracted international partnerships with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Spain’s Abengoa Solar, with more international interest expected.


The Hunter region is already home to the CSIRO National Solar Energy Centre, the Australian Solar Institute, the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources as well as the Smart Grid, Smart City Initiative.


The development of the facility has been supported by a $5 million foundation grant from the Australian Solar Institute


The launching of the tower comes as the Federal Government has announced it will invest nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in constructing two large-scale solar energy plants in Queensland and New South Wales.