DOE Releases US $62M for CSP R&D

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu late last week announced the selections of projects for investment of up to US $62 million over five years to research, develop, and demonstrate Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) systems capable of providing low-cost electrical power.

The thirteen DOE award selections fall into two areas, CSP system studies and component feasability studies. The award winners, along with their projects and the amount of each award are listed below.

Concentrating Solar Power Systems Studies

Abengoa Solar plans to use $10.6 million to develop power tower technology that captures heat in a high-temperature receiver at the top of an elevated tower. The system will focus the sun’s rays to the tower using a 360-degree, surround reflector field on the ground and collect the heat in a salt fluid, which is used to make steam and drive a turbine.

eSolar will use $10.8 million to design, build, and test a CSP power plant system with new components.  Instead of one central tower and receiver, the plant will employ multiple, modular towers. Using reflective mirrors, the sun’s radiation will heat a liquid salt within each receiver. A specialized molten salt transport system will then move the high-temperature fluid to a molten-salt steam generator that produces electricity.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne expects to recieve $10.2 million to build on and advance the current solar power tower plant design. The project will explore new materials for the central power tower receiver. A thermal storage system will be developed and used, representing the first time such technology has been integrated into a CSP plant design.  A more efficient power cycle will help produce more electricity.

    Concentrating Solar Power Component Feasibility Studies

    General Atomics plans to use $2.1 million to carry out feasibility and design studies to validate the concept of supplying reliable, steady baseload power using a concentrating solar power plant integrated with sulfur-based energy storage. The energy is stored through a chemical reaction, which potentially allows the energy to be stored for a much longer period of time.

    HiTek Services is in line to get $3 million to focus on optimizing reflector array, or heliostat, designs in order to reduce the cost of using heliostats in a solar field.

    Infinia Corporation will use $3 million to develop a large-scale thermal energy storage solution that can be used with solar dishes. The system will be essentially maintenance-free and will allow large amounts of energy to be stored in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

    PPG Industries plans to use $3 million to develop a next-generation, low-cost reflector with increased reflectivity, increased durability,  and larger dimensions.  Increasing the performance of reflectors while pushing down the cost of materials and manufacturing will serve as an enabling technology for utility-scale CSP power plants.

    SENER Engineering and Systems is in line for $3.1 million to develop a high-efficiency thermal storage system for solar plants with technology that can extend the operating range of thermal storage using solid, modular blocks.

    SkyFuel expects to get $4.3 million to develop a low-cost CSP trough system with significantly larger dimensions than today’s troughs for use in baseload concentrating solar power generation.

    SunTrough Energy will get $4.5 million to  develop a new class of solar concentrators and build a pilot manufacturing facility to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the new technology. The design will place an emphasis on lightweight materials and mass-manufacturability.

    Terrafore expects to receieve $1.4 million to develop an efficient and economical thermal storage system for baseload power generation that takes advantage of the energy that is transferred when materials melt and solidify.

    The University of South Florida is in line for $2.5 million to develop and demonstrate a thermal energy storage system based on materials that absorb heat when changing from a solid to a liquid and release heat when changing from a liquid to a solid.

    Finally, Wilson TurboPower expects to recieve $3.7 million to develop a small transportable turbine power system in a modular CSP solar power tower configuration. By building a more compact CSP power block, the power block can be assembled in-factory and shipped to the worksite.

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