Cyprus Institute secures European grant for concentrated solar power research

The Cyprus Institute, with another nine partners, is carrying out research in solar energy. The kick-off meeting of the OPTS project (Optimization of a Thermal energy Storage system with integrated Steam Generator), funded by the 7th Framework Programme, has recently taken place in Brussels.

The three-year project, which has an European Commission financial contribution of 8.650.000 euro, is coordinated by the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) and involves 10 other partners, from France, Germany, Israel, Cyprus, Spain and Portugal.

The Cyprus Institute (CyI), a major partner in the consortium, has secured a budget of 515.000, which will create four new positions for researchers, and include both experimental studies and simulations of the various physical phenomena occurring in the device. The CyI will contribute to the design and testing of the full scale test section, and to the impacts on the economics of solar-thermal power plants. Through its participation in the project, The Institute advances its research agenda in the field of solar energy and it demonstrates its emergence as an international force in the field.

Solar energy is an abundant source; each hour the Sun irradiates the Earth with as much energy as is globally consumed in one year. However, solar energy is not always available, such as in cloudy weather or during night-time. Studying and improving technologies for storing the harvested energy is therefore of major importance. One of the most promising technologies relies on storing thermal energy by elevating the temperature of a fluid, such as molten salts.

OPTS aims at developing a new system for thermal energy storage using molten salts, increasing the operational temperatures up to 550 °C, in order to provide efficient, reliable and economic energy storage for the next generation of solar-thermal plants. The objective is to develop and test the new thermal energy storage – steam generator concept for industrial scale solar-thermal plant.

The OPTS project is the result of an incubation process that took place within the Joint Programme on Concentrated Solar Power of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA). The EERA is one of the initiatives of the SET-Plan (Strategic Energy Technology Plan), an instrument of the European Commission aimed at accelerating the development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies for the achievement of Europe’s 2020 targets and visions on greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy and energy efficiency.