Six concentrating solar power research and development projects in the United States will receive $10 million from the US Energy Department to advance the technology.
The awardees are:
- Colorado School of Mines
- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
- Sandia National Laboratories
- Southern Research Institute
- University of Florida
- University of California, Los Angeles
“By improving energy storage technologies for concentrating solar power systems, we can enhance our ability to provide clean and reliable solar power, even when the sun is not shining,” explained Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
The six projects sound fascinating. For example, consider this description of the work to be completed at Sandia:
This project seeks to design a system that concentrates sunlight onto a falling curtain of sand-like particles called perovskites. The perovskites heat up and undergo a chemical reaction. The chemical reaction captures the sun’s energy and the perovskites are stored until the sun goes down.
The perovskites are then re-exposed to air, reversing the chemical reaction and releasing the sun’s heat for use in a very efficient Air-Brayton electric power generation system. The project evaluates how effective the chemical reaction is through a test of a 100 kilowatt hour-thermal thermochemical energy storage system.
The grants are part of the SunShot Initiative, a federal program that supports research, consumer solutions and manufacturing of solar technology to make solar power more accessible to Americans. It was announced in 2011, by Energy Secretary Steve Chu, when he said: “America is in a world race to produce cost-effective, quality photovoltaics. The SunShot initiative will spur American innovations to reduce the costs of solar energy and re-establish U.S. global leadership in this growing industry. These efforts will boost our economic competitiveness, rebuild our manufacturing industry and help reach the President’s goal of doubling our clean energy in the next 25 years.” Since its founding, the SunShot Initiative has funded about 350 technology projects related to renewable energy.
If the name SunShot sounds familiar, it is an homage to President Kennedy’s ‘moonshot’ term he used decades ago to define a potential lunar mission and to inspire a nation, if not the world. SunShot implies a great leap forward technologically, not a trip to the sun, but in doing so includes a sense of optimism.
CSP plants tend to be large, because they operate more efficiently at that size. Some types of CSP are dish engine, power tower, compact linear fresnel reflector, and parabolic trough. Thermochemical CSP may turn out to be an effective way of storing energy for nighttime usage.
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