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Concentratring Solar Power


Solar Flare. This extreme ultraviolet emission line is from singly ionized Helium, or He II, and corresponds to a temperature of approx. 50,000 degrees Celsius." (NASA)

The United States continues to invest in a diversity of new technologies that will provide safe, clean, abundant, and renewable energy for an energy-hungry world.

The United States continues to invest in a diversity of new technologies that will provide safe, clean, abundant, and renewable energy for an energy-hungry world. These include some remarkable technologies called Concentrating Solar Power or CSP. CSP technologies concentrate the sun's energy and capture that energy, which then drives an engine or turban to produce electrical power.

This month, United States Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the selection of projects for investment of up to $62 million over five years to research, develop, and demonstrate Concentrating Solar Power systems capable of providing low-cost electrical power. This funding will support improvements in CSP systems, components, and thermal energy storage to accelerate the technology's market-readiness.

"Developing low-cost, renewable energy generation is crucial to meeting our nation's increasing demands for electricity," said Secretary Chu. "By investing in the development of low-cost solar technologies we can create new jobs and pave the way towards a clean energy-future."

CSP plants can include low-cost energy storage, allowing them to provide electricity even when the sun is not shining. Boosting these technologies today will generate the clean-technology careers of tomorrow and will help expand the market for utility-scale solar energy.

The projects announced this month will seek to improve component and system designs to extend operation to an average of about eighteen hours per day, a level of production that would make it possible for these plants to displace traditional coal-burning power plants.

The thirteen award selections fall into two areas – CSP systems studies and CSP component feasibility studies. Among the systems studies is a program by the Abengoa Solar corporation, in Lakewood Colorado, to develop a new power technology that captures heat in a high-temperature receiver at the top of an elevated tower.

The system will focus the sun's rays to the tower and collect the heat in a salt fluid, which is used to make steam and drive a turbine. The system will also incorporate a thermal storage system to allow it to operate for a period when the sun is not shining.

Among the feasibility study awards recipients is PPG Industries in Cheswick, Pennsylvania. This firm will develop a next-generation, low-cost reflector that will reflect more of the sun's energy and will be more durable than current reflectors. The result will be solar energy at a much reduced cost.

The United States Government is investing today to speed the commercialization and development of cutting-edge solar technologies needed for tomorrow.

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