New technology to enhance concentrating solar power when there is no sun

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Six new research and development projects to advance innovative concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies are being funded with $10 million from the Energy Department. The projects will develop thermochemical energy storage systems to enable more efficient storage of solar energy while using less storage material, cutting the cost for utility-scale CSP electricity generation, and enhancing the ability to provide reliable power even when the sun isn’t shining.

Ivanpah solar thermal power system. Credit: BrightSource Energy

Concentrating solar power technologies use mirrors to focus and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver from which a heat transfer fluid carries the intense thermal energy to a power block to generate electricity. The research and development projects will explore novel thermochemical energy storage systems, which could store the sun’s energy at high densities and temperatures in the form of chemical bonds. The chemical compounds used to store the chemical energy are later broken down to release energy when needed.

Some of the most innovative CSP plants were connected to the United States electricity grid in 2013 — five of which are expected to be fully operational by the end of 2014, including one of the largest CSP plants in the world and a first-of-its-kind commercial scale energy storage technology.

A new report from the Department of Energy highlights these five most innovative CSP plants in the world, including Crescent Dunes in Tonopah, Nevada; Genesis in Blythe, California; Ivanpah in Dry Lake, California; Mojave near Barstow, California; and Solana near Gila Bend, Arizona

When completed, these projects will provide a combined 1.26 GW of electricity, nearly quadrupling the pre-existing CSP capacity in the United States.

For more:
– see the CSP report

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