NREL and Alcoa Test Solar Concentrators Made From Aluminum

As part of its ongoing research collaborations with leading tech innovators, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will be working with Alcoa, the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and alumina. The goal? To lower the cost of solar concentrators.

Current Concentrator Solar Power (CSP) systems make use of glass mirrors used to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect the solar energy and convert it to heat (which is then converted to electricity with the help of a steam turbine.) Instead of glass, Alcoa’s mirrors are–of course–aluminum: highly-reflective aluminum surfaces that, according to a statement, are more durable and eco-friendly than fragile glass-based mirrors (presumably because they last longer).


image via Alcoa

The NREL and Alcoa recently installed a new CSP parabolic trough at NREL’s test facility in Golden, Colorado, where it will undergo a series of tests to measure its efficiency and structural performance. The Alcoa CSP design leverages high volume manufacturing and assembly approaches used in the aerospace and automotive markets as well as the company’s materials–all of which promise to lower the cost of CSP trough systems, bringing ‘super solar’ closer to commercial and residential applications in the near future.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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