SolarReserve receives CSP SunShot award, to advance storage technology

The U.S. solar PV and CSP project developer has received a CSP APOLLO (The Concentrating Solar Power: Advanced Projects Offering Low LCOE Opportunities) program award, designed to advance CSP technology and lower costs.

SolarReserve will use $2.4 million in funding from the Department of Energy (DOE), along with its own funds, to improve its molten salt energy storage capabilities. Specifically, the company plans to develop a ceramic receiver that increases the current temperature of its molten salt, which stores the energy generated from its CSP plants.

"Today, the molten salt is heated from 550F to 1050F," explained Tim Connor, SolarReserve’s VP of Engineering and Technology. "The SunShot CSP APOLLO award will be used for development of an innovative 1350F ceramic receiver that breaks through current temperature and performance barriers, while meaningfully increasing efficiency, energy storage capabilities and lowering capital cost."

SolarReserve, which installed the 110 MW Crescent Dune CSP plant in Nevada with the help of a $737 million DOE loan, will work together the University of California, San Diego, which specializes in selective absorber coatings, and Trex Enterprises Advanced Materials Group, which has experience in ceramic production.

In related news, the Southern Research and DOE have signed a $3 million agreement, also under the CSP APOLLO Program. Over a period of three years, the aim is to support the scale-up and demonstration of a thermochemical energy storage system (TCES), which will allow CSP facilities to also work when there’s no sun.

The energy storage technology will be demonstrated at a 1 MWh scale under real-world conditions at Southern Research’s Southeastern Solar Research Center.

"Southern Research’s TCES system is projected to cost about one-quarter as much as current state-of-the-art molten salt storage systems and will be able to store the same amount of energy in a system about one-sixth the size," said Southern Energy in a statement released.

The company was previously awarded a fund from the SunShot initiative to develop a low-cost calcium-based sorbent, which reacts with carbon dioxide (CO2) to store thermal energy.

Importance of storage

At this year’s Solar Power International event, held from September 14 to 17 in California, founder and chief market research analyst at SPV Market Research, Paula Mints reported from the general sessions for pv magazine. On day 2, CSP technology was the focus of a CEO conversation between Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve, Dave Ramm, chairman & CEO of BrightSource and Fred Redell, MDof Abengoa U.S.

Smith said the biggest challenge to CSP is cost. He added that PV realizes cost savings via manufacturing efficiencies, while CSP realizes cost savings and experience by building projects. The overall feeling was that storage is imperative, if CSP is to increase its competitiveness.