My visit to the ANU

On January 27, 1998 my wife and I visited the Department Engineering Physics of the Australia National University in Canberra. The goal was to meet with some of the team that designed and implemented the White Cliffs Solar Thermal Power Station and get a look at the technology. This power station was unique in that it used an off-the-shelf diesel engine, converted to steam operation as the means of converting solar energy into mechanical energy. While I was there, I talked with Dr. Ken Inall and took a number of photos showing some of the work that they have done.

The photos

This page is still in construction, but since I finally got the scanner working, I thought it was about time to show people some of what we saw while bicycling in Australia.

We never got around to visiting White Cliffs, which is just as well, since the solar power station was decommissioned in 1993 after the town was hooked up to the NSW grid. The photos shown here are of a project called "the Big Dish" (located at the ANU in Canberra) that came afterwards, building on the experiences of White Cliffs. The steam engine is built on similar principals as the White Cliffs apparatus, but the fourteen 5 metre dishes have been replaced by one 20 metre dish.

As usual, a small thumbnail will be presented in the text and it is up to the reader to click on it for the larger version. Fair warning. On with the show...

Dr. Inall at
controls Dr. Ken Inall at the controls of the steam engine. JPEG 46k
Christiane by
the engine Christiane (my wife) standing next to the steam engine, dead center of the photo. The large silver box is the water/oil seperator. JPEG 36k
Engine head A close-up of the engine head. Unfortunately, the valves are hidden within the steel box and one can only see four steam pipes leading to the head. The engine is pretty small compared to old-fashioned steam engines of similar power. JPEG 28k
Generator View of the 50kW generator coupled to the steam engine. The generator is larger than the engine, yet it only cost AUS$2,000(?!). JPEG 30k
The Big Dish The Big Dish, 20 metres in diameter, hexagonal in shape, focusing 400kW of solar energy. The steam shack is visible to the lower left. JPEG 48k
The Big Dish
underneath A closer view of the struts under the Big Dish. A work of art in steel TinkerToys. JPEG 71k
A White
Cliffs Dish One of the original White Cliffs 5 metre dishes, now used for testing high concentration photovoltaic receivers, and other experiments. Christiane and Dr. Inall are standing at the bottom of the dish on a cherry-picker. JPEG 50k
Mirror art View of the White Cliffs dish from the bottom edge. Mosaic of reflections from the 10cm mirror facets. Very artistic. JPEG 73k


Erik Rossen <>
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Last modified: 2008-10-06T09:02:27+0200