This project, done in partnership with Norwich Technologies, focuses on the development of heat pipe receiver technology for use with parabolic trough collectors. Heat pipe receivers are where the boiling and condensing of a fluid efficiently absorbs the incident concentrated solar energy and transfers the heat to the thermal energy storage system. The lab is combining its expertise in high temperature heat pipes and optically selective glass coatings with Norwich Technologies’ expertise in design, construction, and characterization of high temperature cavity receivers. The resulting technology will reduce the levelized cost of energy through a reduction in system costs, parasitic loads and a net energy conversion efficiency increase.
The research team is developing a receiver cavity customized to take advantage of the unique abilities of heat pipes to handle very high concentration ratios. To control the radiative heat losses at high temperatures, a solar selective window designed to fully transmit ultraviolet-visible light from the solar spectrum and back reflect near-infrared blackbody radiation will be developed. The compilation of these technologies enables traditional parabolic troughs to operate at very high efficiencies and become cost competitive.
The heat pipe receiver developed in this project will allow parabolic troughs to compete directly with power towers for high temperature installations reaching 750°C. This system, coupled with emerging high temperature storage and power cycles, has the ability to significantly reduce the levelized cost of energy through enhanced system efficiency and reduction of capital costs. Heat pipes also enable the formulation of smaller CSP installations to service supplementary grid services. Deployment of the technology into these bid-driven markets reduces the burden to secure financing and other deployment limitations including environmental permitting and grid connectivity.