The Solar Thermal Energy Research Group (STERG) hosted their sixth postgraduate research symposium on the 18th and 19th July 2019, at the Engineering Knowledge Centre, Stellenbosch University. The event took place in conjunction with the 10th Annual Renewable Energy Postgraduate Symposium (REPS), hosted by the Centre For Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES).

Delegates and speakers at the 6th Annual STERG Symposium (19 July 2019; credit: Liesel Koch)

The annual event, endorsed by SolarPACES, the international network of researchers and industry experts for the development and marketing of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), convenes around solar thermal power and heat. This year, the STERG symposium featured 23 research presentations on the first day of the event, delivered by delegates from Stellenbosch University, the University of Pretoria, the University of the Free State, and the Vaal University of Technology. Senior lecturer and researcher Dr Willem Le Roux delivered a keynote address showcasing solar thermal energy research at the university of Pretoria, and a panel discussion between the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and Stellenbosch University’s own InnovUS explored the various factors to consider when taking a developing technology to market.

Global interest and research activity in solar thermal energy for industrial process heat is currently mounting, and a number of novel research presentations on the topic were delivered at this year’s event. Senior PhD candidate Mrs Lina Hockaday also gave an overview of the Horizon2020 PREMA project, on which members of STERG are participating as part of the project consortium.

Day two of the symposium, traditionally dedicated to interaction with industry participants, saw guests from ACWA Power, Kathu Solar Park, Mintek, and GeoSUN Africa present on an array of topics ranging from their experiences constructing, operating and maintaining CSP plants, to the use of high temperature solar heat in industrial applications, and lessons learned from the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry. A panel discussion chaired by CRSES director Prof Sampson Mamphweli explored developments in the global CSP markets, and the prospects for CSP in South Africa.

Friday also saw the official welcoming of incoming STERG director Prof Craig McGregor, who takes the reins from interim director Prof Thomas Harms, STERG research group coordinator, Dr Matti Lubkoll, and STERG Solar Thermal Spoke Grant Holder Prof Johan van der Spuy. Dr Lubkoll departs from the University this semester, having been with the research group since its inception in 2010.

The event concluded with a tour of the hybrid cooling tower test facility constructed at the Stellenbosch University Engineering Faculty as part of the 3-year Horizon2020 MinWaterCSP project. The research group would like to thank all speakers, attendees and sponsors for their contribution in making the 6th Annual STERG symposium a success.

Pictured left to right: Prof Thomas Harms (research group director), Dr Willie Smit (research projects manager) Dr Matti Lubkoll (research group coordinator), Prof Craig McGregor (incoming research group director) and Prof Johan van der Spuy (STERG Solar Thermal Spoke grant holder)