Concentrating Solar Power: Concentrating Optics for Lower Levelized Energy Costs (CSP: COLLECTS)

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The Concentrating Solar Power: Concentrating Optics for Lower Levelized Energy Costs (CSP: COLLECTS) funding program aims to further accelerate progress toward the SunShot goals through research and development to produce dramatic improvements and cost reductions in concentrating solar power (CSP) collectors, also known as reflectors. Projects target the design and manufacture of novel solar collectors, which use reflective surfaces to concentrate sunlight on a small area where it is absorbed and ultimately converted into electricity.

COLLECTS awards were announced on July 28, 2016. Read the press release.


This funding program focuses on highly disruptive research and development projects that significantly advance the state-of-the-art CSP solar collectors and reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of a CSP plant. Projects will work to improve the value and productivity of collectors and produce prototypes that demonstrate the viability of the technology for future integration into a CSP plant. 


The projects in CSP: COLLECTS seek to surpass the targets set out in the SunShot Vision Study, enabling CSP to be cost-competitive with conventional forms of electric power generation. Projects will target the design and manufacturing of novel solar collectors, which are the costliest part of the plant, adding up to nearly 40% of a project’s costs. These projects will significantly reduce the solar field contribution to the overall LCOE of the CSP plant.


Project Name: Unique Single-Axis Tracking Planar Waveguide Optical Collector for CSP Modules
Location: Boston, MA
SunShot Award Amount: $628,478
Awardee Cost Share: $160,375
Project Summary: Agira will develop a very low-cost, flat optical collector based on refraction and total-internal reflection at optical interfaces between silicone polymers of different refractive indices. Incoming sunlight is progressively bent and eventually trapped within a glass substrate. Additional benefits include ease of installation and low operations and maintenance costs. The result will be a novel CSP collector which, when manufactured at large scale, will help to bring the cost of electricity below the SunShot target of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour.

Project Name: Development of a Planar Focusing Collector for CSP
Location: Urbana, IL
SunShot Award Amount: $1,381,879
Awardee Cost Share: $345,879 
Project Summary: The goal of this work is to develop a flat solar collector that acts like a conventional curved trough collector. The planar focusing collector (PFC) is a potentially lower-cost alternative to the conventional parabolic trough concentrator (PTC). The PFC will be manufactured using specially designed metasurfaces. These metasurfaces are made from nano- and micro-structured thin, metallic surfaces that change the behavior of light in ways that are counterintuitive to an observer. Novel roll-to-roll manufacturing will also be developed to meet the design specifications of the PFC and cost requirements at large scale. The final deliverable will be a flat focusing element that focuses sunlight with 97% efficiency or higher.

Project Name: CSP Based on Active Microfluidic Mirror Arrays
Location: Oakland, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $1,750,000
Awardee Cost Share: $491,330 
Project Summary: Giant Leap Technologies will develop a means to electronically form mirrors, lenses, and diffraction elements on demand inside an optically transparent medium. An observer looking at a Microfluidic Light Steering (MLS) collector would initially see nothing more than a solid transparent slab. However, once an external signal is applied, the transparent block of material will jump to life and internal mirrors dynamically form to redirect sunlight. This steering of light is substantially independent of wavelength, polarization, system size, and power level. The capability is ultimately based on micron-scale capillaries containing a refractive Index Matching Fluid (IMF) distributed within a transparent solid. The physical distribution of the fluid within the capillaries allows light to be steered to a solar receiver, where it can be captured and turned into energy.

Project Name: Dielectric Metasurface Concentrators
Location: La Jolla, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $2,000,000
Awardee Cost Share: $500,000
Project Summary: This project will increase the acceptance angle of solar concentrators using planar dielectric metasurfaces. Metasurfaces are extremely thin surfaces with unique properties that change the behavior of light in ways that are counterintuitive to an observer. Currently, existing solar concentrators only work for direct light, which requires a multi-axis tracking system to follow the sun’s path. By achieving a wider acceptance angle, tracking systems will not have to move as much, which has the potential to lower the cost of the solar collector for a comparable efficiency performance.

Project Name: Low-Cost Concentrated Solar Power Collector
Location: La Jolla, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $1,483,299
Awardee Cost Share: $1,540,256 
Project Summary: Hyperlight Energy will demonstrate, at large scale, the performance of its linear Fresnel reflector CSP collector, which captures the sun's energy with large mirrors that reflect and focus the sunlight onto a linear receiver tube. Hyperlight uses lightweight, low-cost materials to hold the mirror surfaces in position. The primary bearing surface is a waterbed enclosed on four sides by low profile walls. The bottom of the waterbed is a commodity pond liner, which is ubiquitous in the agricultural space because of its low cost, rugged durability, and life span of over 30 years.

Project Name: Green Parabolic Trough Collector Inspired by an Architectural Paradigm
Location: Livermore, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $1,740,564
Awardee Cost Share: $435,141 
Project Summary: This project seeks to drive down the material and assembly costs of the traditional parabolic trough collector by using  an outdoor-proven structural material that is 15 percent of the price of congenitally-used steel, and a different structure using trusses on the concave side of the parabola. This structure minimizes the amount of material needed to achieve the stiffness that it requires, and reduces the number of assembly fixtures and process steps in construction. The project aims to develop the concept by designing, building, and testing an outdoor full-scale prototype.

Project Name: Drop in, Ring of Power Heliostat for Collects
Location: Broomfield, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $2,062,246
Awardee Cost Share: $850,436
Project Summary: Solar Dynamics is building on heliostat technology developed under a previous award in the Baseload CSP funding program to develop the DROP C (Drop-in, Ring-Of-Power Heliostat for COLLECTS). The new design allows the heliostats to be dropped into a location with drastic reduction of the preparation of the site location, which enables a reduction in costs and improves financing terms. The addition of a wide base and protected drives, which permit heliostats to move and reflect sun at the best angle, allows lower manufacturing costs, reduced costs for the structure’s support, and increased protection from high winds. These improvements, coupled with wireless control of the heliostats, support lower cost targets well beyond the SunShot 2020 goals.