U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
EERE Financial Opportunities
DOE Offers $60 Million for Concentrating Solar Power Research
April 30, 2008
DOE announced on April 30 that it will provide up to $60 million for
concentrating solar power (CSP) projects that focus on advanced
thermal energy storage or heat transfer fluids. The DOE funding will
go toward both new research and development projects and
demonstrations of technologies already under development. DOE
anticipates that 10 to 25 industries or academic institutions will be
selected to receive this funding, which will be distributed over the
next 5 years. With a mandatory private industry cost share of 20%
for research and development, and a 50% cost share for demonstrations,
more than $75 million could be invested in these projects.
Applications are due by July 10. See the DOE press release and the
full solicitation on Grants.gov.
In the 1990s, DOE investigated the use of thermal energy storage at a solar "power tower" demonstration plant near Barstow, California. Called Solar Two, the facility used molten salt as a heat transfer fluid and stored the hot molten salt in a large underground tank. Enlarge this image.
Credit: Warren Gretz
CSP systems collect thermal energy by absorbing and concentrating
energy from the sun. Today's largest systems employ either arrays of
parabolic mirrors, which focus the sun's heat on an absorber tube
carrying a heat transfer fluid, or "heliostats," which are flat
mirrors that focus the sun's heat on a thermal absorber mounted to the
top of a "power tower," through which a heat transfer fluid is pumped.
The parabolic mirrors can also be replaced with linear Fresnel
reflectors. In all those cases, the thermal energy captured by the
heat transfer fluid is used as a heat source for a boiler, which
generates steam to drive a turbine. Dish-shaped mirrors generally
focus the sun's heat on a heat engine, but they can also employ a
thermal absorber through which a heat transfer fluid is pumped.
Heat transfer fluids with the capacity to store a lot of thermal
energy can be combined with thermal energy storage systems to allow
such CSP systems to continue operating after the sun has set, helping
to meet peak power demands on hot summer evenings. Thermal energy
storage also helps CSP plants to operate continuously on partly cloudy
days. Because of these advantages, inexpensive thermal energy storage
is considered a key technology for making CSP systems cost-competitive
by 2020. For more information about CSP, see EERE's Solar Energy