Washington: In a major boost for clean energy, scientists have proved that solar power can beat fossil fuels in large-scale generation of electricity.
Australian scientists have for the first time used solar power to generate "supercritical" steam.
A solar power plant that generates supercritical steam lowers the cost of generating electricity and negates the need to ever use fossil fuels to achieve the same result.
Thus far, solar power could only achieve the sub-critical heat level.
"It is like breaking the sound barrier. This step change proves solar power has the potential to compete with the peak performance capabilities of fossil fuel sources," said Alex Wonhas, energy director at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Newcastle, Australia.
To achieve these results, scientists used more than 600 directional-mirrors pointed at two towers housing solar receivers and turbines at a solar thermal test plant and generated steam at a pressure of 3,400 pound-force per square inch (psi) and 570 degrees Celsius.
At that temperature, water is converted directly to steam without creating any bubbles and with zero inefficiency.
The ultra-hot, ultra-pressurised steam can be used to drive some of the most advanced power plant turbines in the world which crank out electricity, researchers noted.