DOE to provide $10m for projects

The US Energy Department will make available $10m for six new research and development projects that will advance innovative concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies.

The projects will develop thermochemical energy storage systems to enable more efficient storage of solar energy while using less storage material, reducing the cost for utility-scale CSP electricity generation as a result, according to DOE.

The six awardees together will provide $2.56m in cost-sharing to develop the projects.

“By improving energy storage technologies for concentrating solar power systems, we can enhance our ability to provide clean and reliable solar power, even when the sun is not shining,” says Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The six awardees are:

Colorado School of Mines in Golden. Award amount - $1,008,511; cost share - $306,110.

Project summary: Explore how changing the chemical make-up of sand-like particles called perovskites can reduce the cost of the particles without destroying the usefulness of the perovskite chemical reaction responsible for storing the sun’s energy. The perovskites, will be tested at high temperatures using concentrated solar power to prove their usefulness as thermochemical energy storage materials. This project builds upon strategies to efficiently heat sand-like particles that were devised by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, as well as expertise at both the Colorado School of Mines and Abengoa Solar.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington. Award amount - $2,906,415; cost share -  $742,549.

Project summary. Use a high-temperature metal hydride bed to capture the sun’s heat at or above 650°C and a second metal hydride bed to store the hydrogen gas released by the heat capture process. The second hydride bed operates near room temperature. The pairing of the two high and low temperature hydride beds enables hydrogen gas storage at low pressures, reducing costs to a level unachievable by current gas storage methods. This solution will enable solar power generation for extended periods of time.

Sandia National Laboratory, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Award amount $3,45m; cost share $909,793.

Project summary. Project Summary: Seek to design a system that concentrates sunlight onto a falling curtain of perovskites. They heat up and undergo a chemical reaction that captures the sun’s energy and the perovskites are stored until the sun goes down. They are then re-exposed to air, reversing the chemical reaction and releasing the sun’s heat for use in a very efficient Air-Brayton electric power generation system. The project evaluates how effective the chemical reaction is through a test of a 100khr thermochemical energy storage system.

Southern Research Institute, Birmingham, Alabama. Award amount - $836,697; cost share - $209,175.

Project summary. Develop a thermochemical energy storage system (TCES) that uses low-cost calcium carbonate and silicate materials in an endothermic-exothermic chemical reaction cycle. The cycle stores energy during the endothermic step and releases energy during the exothermic step, both of which proceed at temperatures at or above 650°C. This work advances the proposed technology readiness level of the TCES system by demonstrating the system’s key advantages, including its high efficiencies and its potential to meet a cost target of $15 per kWhr thermal.

University of Florida, Gainesville. Award amount - $791,200; cost share - $197,800.

Project summary. The project employs strontium carbonate and high temperature concentrated solar power in an endothermic-exothermic chemical reaction cycle to provide around-the-clock energy. This project uses inexpensive, safe, non-corrosive chemicals.

University of California, Los Angeles. Award amount - $1,182,788; cost share - 295,800.

Project summary. The project seeks to leverage the well-understood ammonia synthesis reaction and apply it to solar thermochemical storage. The project seeks to optimize the synthesis reactor and associated heat exchanger to prove that the ammonia synthesis reaction can be used to directly generate supercritical steam at 650°C, a feat not yet proven.