DoE announces new concentrated solar power technology investments to American Industry, Universities

Building off investments in innovative solar photovoltaic technologies announced at the SunShot Grand Challenge Summit in Denver, Colorado earlier today, the Energy Department announced new investments for 21 total projects to further advance cutting-edge concentrating solar power technologies (CSP). The awards span 13 states for a total of $56 million over three years, subject to congressional appropriations. The research projects, conducted in partnership with private industry, national laboratories and universities, support the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to make solar power cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.

“Our nation is in a race to innovate, manufacture and deploy renewable energy resources like solar and reclaim our leadership in the $260 billion global clean energy industry,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Chu. “As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above approach to American energy, these SunShot investments will help American companies and technologies advance cutting-edge solar technologies that will help U.S. companies to compete internationally, while diversifying our energy portfolio, protecting our air and water and creating jobs for American workers.”

These awards will help speed innovations in new components to lower costs, increase operating temperatures and improve the efficiency of CSP systems. The 3-year applied research projects announced today will focus on achieving dramatic improvements in CSP performance, while driving progress toward the SunShot goal of 75 percent cost reduction, so that this promising technology can deliver more clean, renewable energy to millions of homes and businesses across the country.

CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which is then used to produce electricity. CSP systems are distinguished from other solar energy technologies by their ability to store energy as heat so that consumer demand can be met even when the sun is not shining, including during the night. These systems can be combined with existing fossil-fuel plants to allow for flexible power generation. Watch the Energy 101 video to learn more about CSP technologies.

These awards, made through the SunShot CSP Research and Development 2012 program, support efforts by businesses, universities, and national laboratories across 13 states to speed ahead of current state-of-the-art CSP technologies. The projects will develop innovative concepts for potential performance breakthroughs 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 are critical to subsequent power system integration, engineering scale-up, and commercial production for clean electricity generation.

As part of a planned three-year initiative, Congress has appropriated an initial $16.3 million in fiscal year 2011. The Energy Department plans to make additional requests totaling $39.7 million to Congress in FY13 and FY14 to support these innovative CSP projects.

The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Inspired by President Kennedy’s “Moon Shot” program that put the first man on the moon, the SunShot Initiative has created new momentum for the solar industry by highlighting the need for American competitiveness in the clean energy race.