The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that it will provide $10 million over the next five years for two university-led projects that focus on new concentrating solar power technologies. Here are the details.
* Concentrating solar power technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight, the DOE explained. Receivers then collect the solar energy and convert it to electricity-producing heat.
* According to the DOE, a key component to concentrating solar power systems is heat transfer fluids that carry the heat from a receiver to the point where the heat is needed to drive a turbine.
* The two projects that have been funded by the department's SunShot Initiative both focus on improving heat transfer fluids.
* One of the teams is led by the University of California-Los Angeles. Researchers from Yale University and the University of California-Berkeley will also be participating in an investigation into liquid metals as potential heat transfer fluid that can withstand higher temperatures.
* A research team from the University of Arizona, along with researchers from Arizona State University and Georgia Tech, is planning to develop and demonstrate new molten salt-based fluids that could possibly be used as alternatives to traditional heat transfer fluids, the DOE reported.
* Today's heat transfer fluids are able to operate at temperatures up to about 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the DOE, the selected projects will develop heat transfer fluids that can operate at temperatures of up to 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit.
* The DOE's SunShot Initiative operates under the goal of reducing the total cost of solar energy systems by 75 percent by the end of the decade, which will make it cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity, the department states.
* In order to drive innovation, the DOE states, it will support the efforts of private companies, academia and national laboratories to come up with ways to reduce the cost of solar electricity down to about $.06 per kilowatt-hour.
* The SunShot Initiative projects, selected by the DOE, are refered to as high-risk, high-payoff concepts that can advance a clean, low-cost, large-scale energy source for home owners, communities, business and governmentment, the department stated.
* In June, the DOE announced $56 million of funding over three years for 21 projects that seek to improve concentrating solar power technology performance.
* Several of those projects also research various possibilities for heat transfer fluids, including the National Renewable Laboratory's project that will test the use of falling particles instead of liquid for the heat transfer fluid.