DoE announces grants to study concentrated solar energy technology

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that the DOE will provide up to USD 10 million grants to support the development of more efficient heat transfer fluids to reduce the cost of energy from concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) systems. In addition, Secretary Chu announced the next round of SunShot Initiative postdoctoral research awards.

The DOE will provide up to USD 10 million to university-based projects over five years to develop and demonstrate innovative heat transfer fluids for use in concentrating solar thermal power  energy systems. Concentrating solar thermal power  plants use mirrors to focus sunlight to heat a working fluid. This high-temperature fluid generates steam, which then spins a turbine or powers a heat engine that produces electricity. Developing advanced heat transfer fluids could significantly increase the efficiency of concentrating solar thermal power technology and help drive down the cost of reliable, renewable solar power.

The Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program is designed to advance research, accelerate technology transfer into the marketplace, and prepare a new generation of scientists and engineers to become leaders in the solar power industry. The DOE anticipates funding one to two projects through this opportunity. High operating temperature fluids solicitation seeks applicants to develop innovative heat transfer fluids that are more stable than current technologies at temperatures greater than 800ºC. This could enable concentrating solar thermal power  systems to couple with heat engines capable of converting more than 50% of the heat in the working fluid into electricity.

SunShot Initiative postdoctoral research awards will provide the best and brightest scientific minds in the country with an opportunity to work on advanced clean energy technologies and conduct applied research at universities, national laboratories, and other research facilities. SunShot postdoctoral researchers and awardees pursuing topics in renewable energy and energy efficiency will have access to unique education and training opportunities, top scientists in their field, and state-of-the-art projects and equipment.

The program includes an opportunity for recipients to participate in a research exchange program with Australia under the aegis of the United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration. With researchers from Australia having already begun their work in the United States, this exchange opportunity provides a complementary mechanism for U.S. scientists to conduct research under the mentorship of Australian scientists in Australian solar research laboratories.

Postdoctoral research positions are offered by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in support of the SunShot Initiative’s mission. The DOE SunShot Initiative is a nationwide effort that aims to dramatically decrease the total costs of solar energy at the utility, commercial, and residential levels by 75% before the end of the decade, making solar energy cost-competitive with conventional, unsubsidized forms of electricity and enabling widespread deployment of solar energy.

"In the spirit of our nation’s long legacy of innovation, researchers at America’s universities continue to make breakthroughs that revolutionize how the world uses energy," stated Secretary Chu. "These university-based research opportunities represent important investments that will advance key solar technologies and foster the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs in solar energy."