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Heliostat Consortium

HelioCon—the Heliostat Consortium for Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power—is a National Renewable Energy Laboratory-led consortium focused on improving component performance for the concentrating solar-thermal (CST) power industry.  It supports research, development, validation, commercialization, and deployment of low-cost and high-performance heliostats with optimized operations and maintenance for concentrating solar power (CSP) and CST applications.

The consortium is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) through the Fiscal Year 22-24 Lab Call.

Heliostats stand in front of a solar tower at the Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant in Nipton, California. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Heliostats stand in front of a solar tower at the Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant in Nipton, California. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

A heliostat is a device that continually tilts a mirror or multiple mirror facets to track the sun’s movement in order to reflect sunlight toward a predetermined target—such as a receiver sitting on top of a solar tower.

Heliostats are a critical component of CSP and CST power tower technologies. A utility-scale heliostat field (100 MWe, for example) may include more than 10,000 heliostats. They represent 30%–50% of the cost of system construction and are a primary driver of operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. Improvements to heliostat cost, performance, and reliability are necessary to achieve the DOE 2030 solar cost targets of 5¢/kWh for CSP technology.

Collaboration with Industry

Within HelioCon, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute work closely with DOE and CSP developers, component suppliers, utilities, and international experts to achieve SETO objectives for U.S.-manufactured heliostat cost, performance, and reliability.

To advance U.S. heliostat technologies, HelioCon engages subject-matter experts and general stakeholders for direct project-level collaboration, external consulting, and mission-specific panels or workshops. HelioCon will expand its membership to a broader community of critical stakeholders by building a board of advisors and issuing multiple rounds of requests for proposals for new projects and performers. HelioCon also serves as a hub to integrate all DOE-funded projects that directly advance heliostat technologies.

Consortium Objectives

HelioCon objectives include the following:

  • Develop strategic core capabilities and infrastructure to support high-performance heliostat manufacturing, validation, and optimization and facilitate industry’s ability to design, manufacture, install, and operate central receiver heliostat fields with higher technical and economic performance
  • Ensure that these capabilities are readily available to industry, meeting their needs
  • Fund research on new technologies with significant potential to improve heliostat field economic performance
  • Form U.S. centers of excellence focused on heliostat technology to restore U.S. leadership in heliostat research, development, and validation
  • Promote workforce development through encouraging student internships and postdoctoral positions, the formation of a HelioCon early career scientist group to promote networking and highlight existing training and educational programs in heliostat design, production, and operation.

To participate and get the latest updates, contact the HelioCon team at heliostat.consortium@nrel.gov.