A graphic advertising a concentrating solar-thermal power workshop series, blue and yellow with a photo of a CSP plant

From October - December 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) hosted a virtual workshop series on the latest research and development (R&D) in concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technologies. SETO’s CSP team led a series of presentations, panels, and discussions with global CSP experts on recent technological advances and upcoming R&D challenges. You can view the agendas and download the slides below

Autonomous, Integrated Heliostat Field & Components

October 20, 2020


Heliostat technology development has made rapid advancement in performance, reliability, and cost over the last decade. The goal of this workshop was to allow interested researchers to engage with experts in an informal panel format to discuss the most recent advances and share insights and lessons learned for the challenges that remain. 

This virtual workshop consisted of two panels, with presentations from experts and discussion on the following topics:

  • System and Subsystem Manufacturing and Metrology, including:
    • Advanced heliostat design and manufacturing
    • Metrology and standards
    • Drives and controls development
  • Field Deployment and Techno-Economic Analysis

Next Generation Receivers

October 29, 2020


SETO’s $0.05 per kilowatt-hour levelized cost of electricity target for CSP plants with >12 hours of thermal energy storage is likely to be realized only with a significant increase in solar energy to electricity conversion efficiency. The goal of this workshop was to discuss opportunities and challenges in developing solar receivers for power tower applications that can enable new designs to make CSP feasible, cost effective, and reliable.

This virtual workshop consisted of two panels, with presentations from experts and discussion on the following topics:

  • First-of-a-Kind Receiver Development for Generation 3 CSP
    • Panelists
      • Cliff Ho (Sandia National Laboratories)
      • Shaun Sullivan (Brayton Energy)
      • Craig Turchi (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
  • Impactful R&D for Technology Adoption
    • Panelists:
      • Brian Fronk (Oregon State University)
      • Michael Wagner (University of Wisconsin)
      • Mark Messner (Argonne National Laboratory)
      • David Wait (Nooter/Eriksen)

Unlocking Solar Thermochemical Potential: Markets, Opportunities, and Challenges

November 12, 2020


Solar thermochemical systems are a collection of complex interacting components. This workshop focused on system-level strategies and approaches for the optimization of these components with an emphasis on enabling commercially attractive and economically viable outcomes in promising markets.

This virtual workshop – part one of a three-part series on solar thermochemical potential – consisted of two panels, with presentations from experts and discussion on the following topics:

  • Systems in the Solar Thermochemical Context
    • Panelists
      • Joseph Cresko (Department of Energy)
      • Ellen Stechel (Arizona State University)
      • Davide Zampini (Cemex)
      • Peter Pfromm (Washington State University)
  • A Systems Look at Solar Thermochemical Hydrogen
    • Panelists
      • Ron Kent (SoCal Gas)
      • Vikas Tuteja (Heliogen)
      • Philipp Furler (Synhelion)

Pumped Thermal Energy Storage Innovations

November 17, 2020


A current challenge in CSP research is developing components for pumped thermal energy storage (PTES) technologies that are able to use electricity to efficiently charge thermal energy storage, either as standalone systems or integrated with CSP and other thermal power plants. By soliciting feedback from industry professionals and developing technoeconomic targets for research and development programs, this workshop sought to increase the technology readiness level and manufacturing readiness level of key PTES components. 

This virtual workshop consisted of two panels, with presentations from experts and discussion on the following topics:

  • Introduction: PTES System Thermodynamics and Economics
    • Josh McTigue (NREL)
  • PTES System Design and Technoeconomic Targets for TES/Heat Exchangers
    • Panelists
      • Scott Litzelman (Department of Energy)
      • Benjamin Bollinger (Malta)
      • Zhiwen Ma (NREL)
      • Natalie Smith (SWRI)
      • Tim Held (Echogen)
  • Turbomachinery Design Goals and Cost Targets
    • Panelists:
      • Jeff Moore (SWRI)
      • Doug Hofer (General Electric)
      • Jim Kesseli (Brayton)

Unlocking Solar Thermochemical Potential: Leveraging CSP Experience for Solar Thermochemistry

November 19, 2020


Operating a CSP plant like a chemical plant introduces new challenges and exciting opportunities.  This workshop focused on the implications of sunlight as a thermal energy input to a chemically reacting system and explore opportunities for process intensification to be cost competitive with more traditional chemical processing routes.

This virtual workshop consisted of a single panel with presentations from experts and discussion on the following topic:

  • Leveraging CSP Experience for Solar Thermochemistry
    • Panelists
      • Christian Sattler (DLR German Aerospace Center)
      • James Klausner (Michigan State University)
      • Tim Held (Echogen)
      • Andrea Ambrosini (Sandia National Lab)

Unlocking Solar Thermochemical Potential: Receivers, Reactors, and Heat Exchangers

December 3, 2020


Solar thermochemical systems transfer heat into chemical products through pathways dictated by thermodynamics and at rates dictated by chemical kinetics. This workshop focused on the equipment and components for these systems and how to address changing reaction rates when approaching chemical equilibrium. We discussed concerns such as side reactions, fouling, materials challenges, mechanical limitations, and chemical separations.


CSP Performance and Reliability Innovations

December 10, 2020


Today there are over 100 CSP plants operating worldwide, totaling 7 GW of capacity.  The SETO CSP Program funded the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and partners with extensive commercial experience to survey the existing global fleet to assess lessons learned and identify ‘Best Practices’ to achieve high reliability, availability and lowered operating costs. This report identified several opportunities to standardize some practices that work well, and improve on others that were common challenges among these plants.  In this workshop we reviewed this study’s key findings and focused on opportunities for research and innovation that will reduce the cost, improve the reliability, and as a result increase the value of CSP plants expected to be built in the coming years.

This virtual workshop consisted of a single panel with presentations from experts and discussion on the following topic:

  • CSP Best Practices Study
    • Panelists
      • Mark Mehos (NREL)
      • Hank Price (Solar Dynamics)
      • Bob Cable (Consultant, former Plant Manager NSO)
      • Greg Kolb (Kolb Consultants, former Distinguished Member of Sandia National Laboratory NSTTF)


Learn more about SETO’s CSP research portfoliogoals, and funding programs.