The future of Concentrating Solar Power

CSP Today speaks to Dr. Joachim Kruger, CEO and Founder of Solarlite, about the future of CSP and how to increase competitiveness. Dr. Krueger is participating at the 2nd CSP Optimisation Summit (5-6 June, Madrid) and will be discussing the ‘State-of-the-art Direct Steam Generation’ in an exclusive panel joined by the CIEMAT – PSA, DLR and Novatec Solar.

CSP Today: In your opinion, how will CSP technology evolve in the next 5 years?

Dr. Krueger: My vision is a CO2 free energy production with the sun as energy source, which makes energy more environmentally friendly and everywhere available at a reasonable price. To achieve this objective together with constantly increasing global energy demand CSP technology will have an important role especially in regions with strong direct normal irradiance means the world sunniest regions. The high flexibility of CSP technology will force the deployment in combination with the aim to reduce CO2 emissions.

According to current publications Concentrated Solar Power will constantly grow and double its worldwide capacity in the near future. Nevertheless the technology needs support through ongoing investments in research and development to become a competitive source. In countries where the government takes the leading role and supports CSP development through long-term oriented incentives we are able to achieve a high competitive position by the next few years. The future of CSP is not the large-scale project of 150 MW or more but the individual customized solution to supply energy to industries and rural regions. I also see a significant price decrease that will allow us to install smaller scale systems even in areas with lower DNI, like Solarlite does in Southeast Asia. The CSP plants will hybridize with biomass or biogas and become base load capable. In addition to that we will see DSG systems with new storage devices to back up during transient conditions and to extend daily solar operations.

CSP Today: Which areas you think CSP needs to be focused to get a higher competiveness in the short term?

Dr. Krueger: A wide market acceptance of solar thermal power plants requires further increases in the overall efficiency of a power plant as well as cost reductions. Reaching this goal requires an investment in further development of the technology. Solarlite is placing emphasis on the improvement and automation of the production process for parabolic troughs. In this respect, the company is following the strategy of further reducing the panel price per square meter. This goal will be achieved with the aid of new manufacturing processes, using new materials or material combinations.

We are also working on getting acceptance of hybrid solutions. We have a biomass/biogas-CSP product prepared, which will enter the market shortly. We are optimistic that solar-biomass plants really present a solution for rural areas, given the abundant biomass resource that grows quickly and can be harvested often. At our particular plant sizes of 5 to 20 MWe the logistical problem of biomass/biogas is minimized, but can create large synergy effects for economic growth in agricultural, rural areas.

Future thermal storage will be essential to become CSP a competitive solution of flexible and reliable power supply.

CSP Today: What´s the most important contribution that Solarlite is making to the CSP industry?

Dr. Krueger: Solarlite has created significant innovations within solar thermal energy. The direct steam generation of water instead of thermal oil and the option of cogeneration of thermal and electrical energy make the energy production nearly free of CO2 and more environmental friendly. Solarlite is the first company in the world, which has built a commercial parabolic trough solar-thermal power plant based on direct steam generation. With this technology, Solarlite can achieve higher operating temperatures than for example with thermal oil, which is limited up to 395°C. The total investment costs can thus be reduced by up to 10 – 25 %.

The decentralized modular system of Solarlite is also unique in the world. The design based on combining a light composite construction and an efficient thin-glass mirror is advantageous in various aspects, for example a central production independent of the power plant sites as well as allowing small project sizes with no limitations. The Solarlite SL 4600 parabolic trough is a newly developed highly efficient product that can generate temperatures of more than 400 °C. The SL 4600 is a light weight glass fiber composite material construction using only necessary minimal steel for torsional stiffness. The simplicity of the construction, together with the use of new materials and material combinations, allows mass production of an optical instrument with higher precision, whilst simultaneously reducing weight and costs.

CSP Today: In which projects are Solarlite working on at the moment in terms of optimization? Could you give more details about the expectations and results obtained from your most relevant projects?

Dr. Krueger: Solarlite works on different research projects which will enable the company to become more competitive.

The currently finished TRESERT project demonstrates how an innovative technology can provide a decentralized supply of electricity, heating and refrigeration in Southeast Asia. The goal of the BMU-sponsored project is to raise awareness of green technologies in the region, and the use of low-temperature turbines and absorption cooler is a technical innovation that has tremendous marketing potential.

In the joint research project known as “Duke” that is supported also by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Solarlite GmbH, DLR – the German Aerospace Centre and CIEMAT are testing a new version of direct steam generation that will make it possible to cut energy costs even more.

And there is a third project funded by the Seventh Framework Program for Research and Technological

Development of the European Union with the objective to develop low cost carbon fiber composite components that can substitute existing metallic components in solar thermal power plants.
In addition to that we are working on several projects showing solar-biomass hybridization on projects scales below 20 MWe.

To know who will be joining Dr. Krueger at the 2nd CSP Optimisation Summit in Madrid, visit: