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DOE Simply Cannot Stop Concentrating Photo voltaic Energy

Followers of concentrating solar energy have weathered a storm of criticism over time, however the dream simply received’t die. They converse of a 100-megawatt facility that may ship electrical energy 24/7, similar to a nuclear energy plant however with out the danger issue and the flamboyant price ticket, too. That’s asking so much, however the US Division of Vitality has latched on to a brand new ceramic-based expertise that would ship the products.

The Ups & Downs Of Concentrating Photo voltaic Energy

For these of you new to the subject, concentrating solar energy vegetation don’t use standard photovoltaic panels to gather photo voltaic vitality. As an alternative, they deploy a field of specialized mirrors that bounce daylight onto a central level. The photo voltaic vitality heats up a retailer of specialised oil or molten salt, which is then piped to a producing station the place it could run a turbine.

If that sounds costly, inefficient, and complex, it may be. Even so, concentrating solar energy has been catching on elsewhere world wide. The benefit is that the energy-absorbing medium, whether or not oil or salt, additionally acts as a inbuilt vitality storage reservoir, enabling the generators to maintain spinning lengthy after the solar goes down.

Getting a foothold right here within the US is a distinct kettle of fish. The Obama administration showcased a bunch of five CSP plants within the Southwest, however this system didn’t stimulate a lot follow-on curiosity amongst personal buyers.

The Vitality Division went again to the drafting board in 2015 and got here up with a program known as CSP: APOLLO. This system goals to determine new applied sciences and programs that may present for high-temperature operation, outlined as greater than 720°C, the concept being that greater temperatures can lead to effectivity enhancements whereas chopping prices. The official objective is a minimal of 50% thermal-to-electric conversion effectivity, which the Vitality Division describes as “dramatically extra environment friendly than present expertise.”

One Bizarre Trick May Make Concentrating Photo voltaic Energy Occur: Ceramics

Oddly sufficient, the Trump administration continued to assist the Vitality Division’s R&D work on excessive temperature concentrating solar energy, regardless of the previous President’s oft-repeated promise to save coal jobs and a stab at creating extra nuclear vitality jobs, too.

Throughout Trump’s first 12 months in workplace, CleanTechnica caught wind of an Vitality Division article extolling the benefits of CSP facilities. The article talked about one thing about $62 million in funding for a brand new program known as Generation 3 CSP Systems, and that’s the place issues get fascinating.

Gen three CSP focuses on figuring out new high-temperature applied sciences which have handed muster on the laboratory scale, and assembling them into programs that may be discipline examined beneath varied circumstances.

“This consists of the event of a check facility that permits various groups of researchers, laboratories, builders and producers to take away key technological dangers for the subsequent technology CSP expertise and allow the discount of the levelized value of vitality (LCOE) for electrical energy generated by CSP to six ¢/kWh or much less, with out subsidies, by the tip of the last decade,” the Vitality Division explains.

By 2018, among the new Gen three CSP tasks started crossing the CleanTechnica radar frequently, together with an innovative “falling particle” system primarily based on gravity and ceramics, developed by Sandia Nationwide Laboratories. We additionally had an opportunity to talk with the consultants about one other mission involving new alloys for high-temperature CSP facilities.

A New Daybreak For CSP

One other Vitality Division focus of consideration is the Bill Gates CSP venture Heliogen, which burst out of stealth mode in 2019 with a objective of working at 1,000 levels centigrade.

The final time we checked into Heliogen, they had been on monitor to install their CSP system to assist minimize emissions at a boron mine in California.

That was again in 2021. If in case you have any breaking information concerning the mission, drop us a observe within the remark thread. In the meantime, it appears to be like like Sandia Nationwide Laboratory is off to the races. Final week, the Vitality Division introduced that it chosen Sandia for a $25 million award aimed toward constructing, testing, and working a new CSP system on the company’s Nationwide Photo voltaic Thermal Take a look at Facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The brand new concentrating solar energy system culminates a complete of $100 million in funding for top temperature CSP. It’s going to showcase Sandia’s falling particle expertise, which might function at temperatures above 800°C.

“These particles can be utilized to switch and retailer warmth or energy a supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) turbine. If profitable, one of these solar energy plant may present 100 megawatts of energy constantly, across the clock, at low value,” the Vitality Division enthused, including that their electricity-plus-storage objective is 5 cents per kilowatt hour.

Wait, What Particles?

DOE stacked up the particle method in comparison with different programs and recognized a number of key benefits.

“After this evaluation, DOE decided that particle-based programs require fewer elements and are much less advanced to function in contrast with liquid- and gas-based programs,” they defined. “Moreover, particle-based programs want comparatively few high-cost supplies to gather and transport thermal vitality. These components may improve plant availability and reliability and allow less complicated plant building and commissioning.”

DOE additionally famous that the particle-based expertise may assist decarbonize industries that depend on excessive course of warmth of greater than 800° Celsius, along with producing electrical energy.

As for the particles themselves, they’re primarily based on aluminum oxide and register a diameter of simply 300 micrometers every.

“The heated particles are then saved in an insulated bin earlier than passing by means of a particle-to-working-fluid warmth exchanger. The warmth exchanger’s working fluid will simulate a high-efficiency Brayton cycle utilizing supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) with an exit temperature of 720°C,” DOE explains, “Then the cooled particles are collected and moved again to the highest of the receiver through a bucket elevator or skip hoist.”

That also sounds sophisticated and costly, however apparently not so. In case you caught that factor about supercritical carbon dioxide, that’s a part of the rationale. Supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) is the liquid type of CO2. When deployed to run a turbine, sCO2 can present for effectivity good points and a way more compact footprint, resulting in decreased prices.

The Vitality Division anticipates that the falling-particle concentrating solar energy setup may yield 100 megawatts of low-cost energy across the clock.

If personal buyers had been skittish about concentrating solar energy within the US earlier than, they could change their tune after 2024, when the Sandia system is anticipated to be up and operating.

In the meantime, Heliogen appears to be going by means of a tough patch, however earlier this month the corporate introduced a brand new CEO, Christie Obiaya, who has a plan for turning issues round. Along with her expertise in energy-related mission growth, Ms. Obiaya is an engineer with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from MIT.

Observe me on Trainwreck Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Discover me on LinkedIn: @TinaMCasey or Mastodon: @Casey or Publish:  @tinamcasey

Picture (cropped): New Mexico will host a brand new concentrating solar energy plant to showcase falling particle technology, courtesy of US Division of Vitality.


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