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Concentrating Solar Power: Advanced Projects Offering Low LCOE Opportunities (CSP: APOLLO)

Concentrating Solar Power: Advanced Projects Offering Low LCOE Opportunities (CSP: APOLLO)

Building upon the successful outcomes of the 2012 SunShot Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Research & Development funding program, the CSP: APOLLO funding program furthers CSP system technologies through transformative projects that target all of the components of a CSP plant. The funding program was announced on September 16, 2015 with a total award amount of $32 million. Read the press release announcing the CSP: APOLLO projects.


CSP: APOLLO projects include transformative solutions to break through current performance barriers. Some projects demonstrate or prove new concepts for CSP plant components. To meet the SunShot cost targets for CSP, innovative approaches are necessary to enable highly efficient systems that can operate at the high temperatures (> 720 °C) required for advanced, next-generation power cycles. CSP: APOLLO also targets projects to develop essential components of those advanced power cycles, which will be able to achieve at least 50% thermal-to-electric power conversion efficiency, dramatically more efficient than current technology. Additionally, this is the first time that operations and maintenance projects have been a key focus of one of SunShot’s CSP funding programs. Improvements in CSP technology have driven down hardware costs, so operations and maintenance now represent a more significant component of total CSP system costs.


CSP: APOLLO projects address challenges in each technical system of a CSP plant, including solar collectors, receivers and heat transfer fluids, thermal energy storage, power cycles, as well as operations and maintenance. These research and development projects will improve the performance and increase the efficiency of every component within a CSP plant, which will ultimately lower the cost of CSP electricity, including at night when these systems continue to deliver electricity from the sun through the use of thermal energy storage. The projects awarded under CSP: APOLLO each address challenges in the sub-components of a CSP plant, which will eventually be integrated into next-generation plants to deliver electricity at low-cost, whenever required by the electric grid.


Abengoa Solar, LLC - ATLAS

Location: Lakewood, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $1,221,015
Awardee Cost Share: $1,221,015
Project Summary: Abengoa will re-optimize the collector as an entire system to enable the use of molten salt in the collector field, detailing and validating innovative improvements in the concentrator design, drive and controls, manufacturing, installation, plant operation, and optical performance. This will result in a next-generation collector that moves away from the conventional architecture, delivering lower costs and better high-temperature heat transfer fluid compatibility.

Abengoa Solar, LLC - AETHER

Location: Lakewood, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $2,697,434
Awardee Cost Share: $2,127,434
Project Summary: This project will use particles that represent a heat transfer material that can support cycle temperatures of 1,100°C or higher without complex freeze protection systems. The project will develop designs for a receiver using a novel heat pipe strategy, material handling and storage of hot particles, and ducting of hot, pressurized air.

Boston University

Location: Boston, MA
SunShot Award Amount: $1,150,000
Awardee Cost Share: $390,864
Project Summary: This project will use laboratory-scale electrodynamic-screen self-cleaning solar technology with heliostat mirrors and parabolic troughs in large scale solar plants. The objective is to reduce both the need to clean mirrors with water and the degradation of CSP collector performance due to deposited dust. Building upon a feasibility demonstration of self-cleaning CSP optics, the team will develop new manufacturing processes that are scalable to full-size production and conduct extensive field tests in collaboration with several industrial partners and government labs.

Oregon State University

Location: Corvallis, OR
SunShot Award Amount: $2,000,000
Awardee Cost Share: $580,683
Project Summary: Oregon State University will continue development of a microchannel solar receiver, building on a current SunShot project, using supercritical CO2 (sCO2) as the heat transfer fluid. The research will resolve key issues associated with the commercial viability of the technology, which allows for a radical reduction in the size of a solar central receiver. The project will culminate in an on-sun test of a commercial scale receiver module with a surface area of approximately 1 square meter.

SolarReserve LLC

Location: Santa Monica, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $2,357,159
Awardee Cost Share: $589,291
Project Summary: This project will develop a concept for creating affordable, compact, and lightweight receiver panels capable of heating air, carbon dioxide, molten salts, or other corrosive and oxidizing fluids to 750°C, 185°C hotter than current receiver design through the use of commercially available silicon carbide (SiC) ceramics. SolarReserve is also partnering with previous SunShot awardee University of California San Diego to utilize its solar selective coating, which provides greater solar absorptivity, lower infrared emissivity, and can withstand higher temperatures than current state-of-the-art coatings.

Dartmouth College

Location: Hanover, NH
SunShot Award Amount: $656,831
Awardee Cost Share: $173,020
Project Summary: This project will develop thermodynamically stable, long-term anti-oxidation cermet solar selective coatings through the use of nanoparticles. The project goal is to achieve over 1000 h operation at 700°C in air with a solar absorbance greater than 95% and thermal emittance less than 10%. The coating will be applied to Norwich Technology’s vacuum-free SunTrap CSP receiver systems for prototype demonstration, achieving a thermal efficiency greater than 90% at 700°C.

Argonne National Laboratory

Location: Argonne, IL
SunShot Award Amount: $1,050,000
Awardee Cost Share: 
Project Summary: This project continues the development of a high efficiency latent heat thermal energy storage (LHTES) system based on a high thermal conductivity graphite foam infiltrated with a phase change material (PCM). The project will extend the graphite foam/PCM LHTES system to make it compatible with supercritical CO2 power cycle requirements of heat transfer fluid greater than 720°C.

Purdue University

Location: West Lafayette, IN
SunShot Award Amount: $3,845,079
Awardee Cost Share: $965,550
Project Summary: This project will create millichanneled heat exchangers comprised of mechanically-, thermally-, and chemically-robust, high-temperature composite materials and demonstrate the capability of such heat exchangers for operation in high-temperature heat transfer fluids and supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) at a temperature of up to 800°C. The proposed composites comprised of materials with similar thermal expansion coefficients and have been demonstrated to be highly-resistant to thermal shock and to exhibit the necessary to operate in a sCO2 environment at 800°C.

Southern Research Institute

Location: Birmingham, AL
SunShot Award Amount: $2,000,000
Awardee Cost Share: $998,966
Project Summary: The Southern Research Institute, in partnership with Precision Combustion, Inc. and the Electric Power Research Institute, and with support from Clariant, Inc., and Southern Company, will demonstrate its novel high-temperature calcium-based thermochemical storage system for use with CSP facilities. This system uses a highly refined and tailored reinforced calcium-oxide sorbent undergoing a reversible carbonation reaction in a parallel-plate heat exchanger reactor to produce a highly energy dense storage system with sorbent material derived from a very low cost feedstock. This high-temperature storage system has an estimated installed cost of $13-15/kWhth.

Brayton Energy

Location: Hampton, NH
SunShot Award Amount: $2,600,000
Awardee Cost Share: $695,956
Project Summary: This project will integrate a novel solar absorber architecture and metal hydride thermal energy storage (TES) in a single close-coupled system. The high energy density of the TES allows it to be mounted up-tower alongside the receiver, which further enables up-tower mounting of the entire sCO2 Brayton power block. Mounting the TES and power block up-tower eliminates the need for costly piping and fluidic connections between the receiver and a large centralized element making the system ideal for modular implementation and growth.

Southwest Research Institute

Location: San Antonio, TX
SunShot Award Amount: $5,350,000
Awardee Cost Share: $3,440,874
Project Summary: The team of Southwest Research Institute and Samsung Techwin America will develop an integrally-geared compressor-expander (compander) and a novel centrifugal compressor impeller design for use in 10 MW scale CSP applications utilizing a supercritical CO2 (sCO2) cycle. This integrally-geared compander has the potential to improve efficiency, modularity, and process control over other proposed CSP turbomachinery configurations utilizing a sCO2 power cycle.

General Electric - GE Global Research

Location: Niskayuna, NY
SunShot Award Amount: $3,800,000
Awardee Cost Share: $1,841,054
Project Summary: GE Global Research (GE) and Southwest Research Institute will develop an optimal compression system for a modular supercritical CO2 (sCO2) power block operation in highly transient CSP tower applications. The compressor train to be developed will provide high pressure CO2 compression at state-of-the-art efficiency, required for the operation of a tower-mounted, modular, recompression type sCO2 power cycle with a wide operating range to be coupled with the turbo-expander being developed for CSP power tower applications.

Ceramatec, Inc.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT
SunShot Award Amount: $2,348,780
Awardee Cost Share: $1,476,706
Project Summary: Ceramatec Inc. and Georgia Institute of Technology will develop and demonstrate a modular sodium ion expansion power block for distributed CSP with an estimated efficiency in excess of 50%. These generators will be most similar to thermoelectric generators, though the ion expansion engines are considerably more efficient. The key to innovation is the use of Ceramatec’s patented NaSelectTM and b-Alumina solid electrolytes, which have high sodium ion conductivities for operation in a dual stage heat engine.

University of Wisconsin

Location: Madison, WI
SunShot Award Amount: $1,899,986
Awardee Cost Share: $476,045
Project Summary: This project will address the fundamental challenges associated with the SCO2 cycle, including the need for a high degree of internal heat transfer that requires substantial heat transfer area. The use of fixed, switched-bed regenerators provides a simple, low-cost alternative for the recuperator. Researchers at the UW-Madison, in collaboration with FlowServe, will design, fabricate, and test a fixed bed regenerator system that is compatible with the operating conditions expected in a SCO2 cycle. The device will be installed in the test loop located at Sandia National Laboratory in order to demonstrate the operation of the regenerator at prototypical conditions.

Learn more about SunShots other concentrating solar power awards