DOE announced on November 29th that $5.2 million will be divided between 12 projects to fund the development of concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies. The 12 CSP projects are focused on lowering the cost of components and developing energy storage technologies. CSP systems capture the sun's heat and convert it into electricity, using rows of trough-shaped mirrors, rows of flat mirrors arranged to mimic a trough (called "linear Fresnel reflective technologies"), dish-shaped mirrors, or large fields of flat mirrors that concentrate the sun's heat on a tall "power tower."
The projects aim to develop low-cost mirrors and other components for solar troughs, improved Stirling engines for converting the heat from solar dishes into electricity, and molten salt technologies for both linear Fresnel reflective technologies and solar power towers. Molten salt systems operate at high efficiency and allow for storage of the molten salt for conversion into electricity when it is needed, even at night. In addition, one project will develop a compressed air energy storage system for solar dishes, using the compressed air to essentially turbocharge a microturbine that will be fueled with natural gas. The eight companies that are working on the 12 projects are located in California, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
DOE's investment in CSP technology is part of the Solar America Initiative, which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional power by 2015. Need to learn more about CSP? Consider attending the CSP Summit 2008, which will be held in San Francisco, California, on January 28th and 29th. See the Web site for the CSP Summit.