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Concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technologies can be used to generate electricity by converting energy from sunlight to power a turbine, but the same basic technologies can also be used to deliver heat to a variety of industrial applications, like water desalination, enhanced oil recovery, food processing, chemical production, and mineral processing. Learn more about how CSP works.

SETO Concentrating Solar-Thermal Goals

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports CSP research and development projects that work to improve the performance, reduce the cost, and improve the lifetime and reliability of materials, components, subsystems, and integrated solutions for CSP technologies. In the past decade, the cost of electricity produced by CSP has dropped more than 50 percent thanks to more efficient systems and the wider use of thermal energy storage, which allows solar energy to be dispatchable around the clock and increase the time each day that a solar power plant can generate energy. SETO is working to make CSP even more affordable, with the goal of reaching $0.05 per kilowatt-hour for baseload plants with at least 12 hours of thermal energy storage. Learn more about SETO’s goals here.

Within SETO’s CSP research area, efforts are focused on five major topics. Learn more about them below.

Research Topics

Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Systems
CSP subprogram funds research and development to achieve the technical and economic targets of the components for the different system configurations.
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Solar Thermal Energy Storage and Heat Transfer Media
Thermal energy storage (TES) refers to heat that is stored for later use—either to generate electricity on demand or for use in industrial processes.
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Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power (CSP) Power Cycles
Power cycles are used in CSP thermal energy plants to convert heat into electricity using sunlight to generate the heat to power a turbine.
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Solar Collectors
collectors reflect and concentrate sunlight and redirect it to a receiver, where it is converted to heat and then used to generate electricity.
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Solar for Industrial Processes
Solar energy can be used to generate heat for a wide variety of industrial applications, including water desalination, and enhanced oil recovery.
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SETO funding for CSP research is awarded to projects that substantially advance, develop, or engineer new concepts in the collector, receiver, thermal storage, heat transfer media, and power cycle subsystems, including technologies that will lower operations and management costs. This includes transformative concepts with the potential to break through existing cost and performance barriers. Projects are managed by the CSP team and executed with the goal of developing technologies that are commercially relevant for the U.S. energy sector. Learn more about SETO’s funding programs and current funding opportunities.

CSP Success Stories

EERE Success Story—Material Mash-Up Could Increase Efficiency of Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Plants
A new metal composite for heat exchangers could improve energy conversion and cut costs in CSP plants.
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EERE Success Story—Concentrating Solar Power Transforms Food Processing with Solar Steam
Sunvapor designed a solar collector to cut costs and optimize the supply chain by using less energy to manufacture the structural components.
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EERE Success Story—Supercharging Concentrating Solar Power Plant Performance
Supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) power cycles have the potential to reduce the cost of concentrating solar power (CSP) by substantially improvin...
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EERE Success Story—Solar Receiver Redesign Enables CSP to Beam Ahead
EERE Success Story—Solar Receiver Redesign Enables CSP to Beam Ahead
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EERE Success Story—Reaching New Limits with Solar Storage
EERE Success Story—Reaching New Limits with Solar Storage
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EERE Success Story—Terrafore: Thermal Storage gets a "Hole in One"
EERE Success Story—Terrafore: Thermal Storage gets a "Hole in One"
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Workshops & Events

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