DOE Creates New Funding to Support Development of Concentrated Solar Power

The DOE anticipates this new round of solar funding to support between 20 and 22 projects that seek to develop new concepts and approaches in the design of technologies used in CSP systems. A concentrating solar power system can be broken down into three major components: the collectors, the receivers, and the power cycle equipment. Through the SunShot CSP program, the government hopes to advance technologies in all three of these subsystems to both increase the efficiency and also lower the cost of CSP systems.

This new funding comes after a tumultuous couple of months for concentrated solar power in the United States. With rapidly falling prices for photovoltaic (PV) modules, they have begun pouring into U.S. from Asian markets. This predicament has left developers of other solar technologies, in particular CSP, struggling to stay competitive.

DOE to invest $60 million to develop concentrating solar power. The US DOE wants researchers and scientists to "think outside the box" and come up "highly disruptive Concentrated Solar Thermal Power technologies that will meet 6¢/kWh cost targets by the end of the decade.

As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a $60 million investment over 3 years for applied scientific research to advance concentrating solar power technologies.

CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which can then be used to produce electricity. Funded through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, this research supports DOE’s SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to reduce the cost of solar energy 75 percent to make it cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.

DOE’s SunShot investments in solar energy research will encourage rapid, widespread adoption of solar energy systems across the country, help the solar power industry overcome technical barriers and reduce costs, boost U.S. competitiveness in the worldwide market for solar technologies, and provide support for clean energy jobs for years to come.

Through this solicitation, the DOE seeks to support research into technologies that have the potential to increase efficiency, lower costs, and deliver more reliable performance than existing commercial and near-commercial CSP systems. DOE expects to fund between about 20 and 22 projects, and encourages industry, universities, and national laboratories to apply.

This SunShot CSP opportunity seeks to develop innovative concepts that could lead to performance breakthroughs like improving efficiency and temperature ranges, and demonstrate new approaches in the design of collectors, receivers, and power cycle equipment used in CSP systems.

Each of these subsystems is critical to CSP operation: the collectors collect and concentrate the Sun’s energy onto the receiver; the receiver accepts and transfers the heat energy to the power cycle; and the power cycle converts the heat energy into electricity.

Developing low-cost collectors, high-temperature receivers, and high-efficiency power cycles should lead to subsequent system integration, engineering scale-up, and eventual commercial production for clean electricity generation applications.

By José Santamarta,