DOE Cash Backs Better CSP Heat Transfer

The falling price of photovoltaics (PV) has put many concentrating solar power (CSP) projects on the chopping block. Last year, Pike Research noted that 6.9 gigawatts (GW) of CSP capacity had been awarded, but just 1.5 GW were under construction. (CSP plants backed by federal loan guarantees, like the Mojave Solar Project, are still moving forward.)

To help lower the cost of CSP technologies, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced two new opportunities for solar energy researchers as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative, including up to $10 million in funding to support the development of advanced heat transfer fluids for concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. The DOE hopes that this research will help drive down the cost of solar power, accelerate the commercialization of CSP technology, and prepare a new generation of scientists and engineers to become solar industry leaders.

concentrating solar, CSP, SunShot

image via U.S. Department of Energy

The most common types of CSP plants use mirrors to focus sunlight, heat a fluid, and generate steam. The steam then spins a turbine to generate electricity. The SunShot Initiative aims to dramatically decrease the total costs of solar energy by 75 percent before the end of the decade.

In the case of CSP technology, the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative: High Operating Temperature Fluids funding opportunity will focus specifically on increasing the efficiency of CSP technology by developing heat transfer fluids that are more stable than current technologies at temperatures greater than 800 degrees Celsius.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

    • G

      Why does this article have a picture of a solar plant that has since been abandoned but not reclaimed: Solar One/Solar Two – Daggett, California, USA???

      Is this what environmentalism has come to? When are they going to clean this up?

      • Pete Danko

        This photo isn’t from Solar One/Two. It is a trough-style solar concentrating system. Solar One/Two used flat heliostats for an early power tower demonstration. But I agree, these sites ought to be cleaned up, and I imagine most environmentalists (many of whom oppose solar development in the desert) would agree.

    • Lydia Bridges

      I am doubtful of this photo but, thanks anyway, for sharing this post. -

      • Lydia, what are you “doubtful” about regarding this photo?

        Pete Danko
        Renewable Energy Editor