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Wed January 16 2019

News » US » Department of Energy backs development of solar tech » published 16 May 2018

Department of Energy backs development of solar tech

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is making US$72m available for the development of advances in high-temperature concentrating solar power (CSP) systems.

The newly funded projects will extend previous research on high-temperature components, develop them into integrated assemblies, and test the components and systems through a wide range of operational conditions.

CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a focused point where it is collected and converted into heat. This thermal energy can be stored and used to produce electricity whenever it is needed.

The best commercially available technologies can only reach 565°C. The high-temperature thermal systems targeted by the DOE program seek to achieve at least 700°C, which would boost efficiency and lower the cost of the electricity. If successful, these projects will lower the cost of a CSP system by approximately US$0.02 per kilowatt-hour, which is 40 % of the way to the office’s 2030 cost goals of US$0.05 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for baseload CSP plants.

“DOE has led the world in CSP research,” said Daniel Simmons, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. “These projects will help facilitate the next wave of new technologies and continue the effort to maintain American leadership in this space.”

Through the Generation 3 CSP (Gen3 CSP) program, three teams have been selected to compete to build an integrated system that can receive solar heat efficiently and deliver it to a working fluid at greater than 700°C temperature, while incorporating thermal energy storage.

The awardees and their phase one funding include:

Brayton Energy (Hampton, New Hampshire) - US$7.6m;

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colorado) - US$7m;

Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, New Mexico) - US$9.5m.

Over the first two-year period, the teams will work de-risk various aspects of diversified CSP technology pathways, prepare a detailed design for a test facility, and be subjected to a review process to select a single awardee to construct their proposed facility.

If selected, they will receive an additional US$25m over the subsequent three years to build a test facility that allows teams of researchers, laboratories, developers and manufacturers to remove key technological risks for the next generation CSP technology.

In addition, eight teams have been selected to develop either component-level technology or use cross-cutting research capabilities that support the goal of creating a successful integrated testing site. They will receive between US$1.5m and US$2m. The teams are from the Electric Power Research Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology (two projects), University of Tulsa, Hayward Tyler, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mohawk Innovative and Purdue University.

DOE has provided an additional US$10m in funding to national labs to support the work.


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This article was published on 16 May 2018 (last updated on 16 May 2018).

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