DOE to advance concentrating solar power systems

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The Department of Energy announced $10 million for six new research and development projects that will advance concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies.

The projects will develop thermochemical energy storage systems to enable more efficient storage of solar energy while using less storage material, cutting the cost for utility-scale CSP electricity generation as a result.

Also, the DOE released a new report highlighting the progress of five major CSP deployment projects that are already producing renewable energy.

“By improving energy storage technologies for concentrating solar power systems, we can enhance our ability to provide clean and reliable solar power, even when the sun is not shining,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Concentrating solar power technologies use mirrors to focus and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver from which a heat transfer fluid carries the intense thermal energy to a power block to generate electricity. The research and development projects announced today will explore and develop novel thermochemical energy storage systems, which could store the sun's energy at high densities and temperatures in the form of chemical bonds.

The chemical compounds used to store the chemical energy are later broken down to release energy when needed. Six teams from universities, national laboratories and research institutes, working with industrial partners, will test different chemical processes for CSP thermochemical energy storage that could further advance CSP technology, helping the industry step closer to meeting the SunShot Initiative’s technical and cost targets for CSP and moving the U.S. toward its clean energy future.

The DOE report, “2014: The Year of Concentrating Solar Power,” focuses on five of the most innovative CSP plants in the world that, in 2014, are expected to be fully operational in the southwestern U.S. as a result of sustained, long-term investments by the Administration and committed solar industry partners.

When completed, these projects will provide a combined 1.26 GW of electricity, nearly quadrupling the preexisting CSP capacity in the U.S. with the potential to power more than 350,000 average American homes. In addition, the five CSP projects illustrate how loan guarantees provided by the Energy Department encouraged private market investment and accelerated the deployment of these technologies at commercial scale.

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