Future RD Efforts

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Improvements in the concentrator performance and cost will have the most dramatic impact on the penetration of CSP. Because the concentrator is a modular component, it is possible to adopt a straightforward strategy that couples development of prototypes and benchmarks of these innovations in parallel with state-of-the-art technology in real solar-power plant operation conditions. Modular design also makes it possible to focus on specific characteristics of individual components, including reflector materials and supporting structures, both of which would benefit from additional innovation.

Research and development is aimed at producing reflector materials with the following traits [3]:

• Good outdoor durability.

• High solar reflectivity (>92%) for wavelengths within the range of 300-2,500 nm.

• Good mechanical resistance to withstand periodical washing.

• Low soiling co-efficient (<0.15%, similar to that of the back-silvered glass mirrors).

Scaling up to larger power cycles is an essential step for all solar thermal technologies (except for parabolic trough systems using thermal oil, which have already gone through the scaling in the nine solar electric generation stations installations in California, which range from 14 MW to 80 MW). Scaling up reduces unit investment cost, unit operation and maintenance costs and increases performance. The integration into larger cycles, specifically for power tower systems, creates a significant challenge due to their less-modular design. Here the development of low-risk scale-up concepts is still lacking.

Storage systems are another key factor for cost reduction of solar power plants. Development needs are very much linked to the specific system requirements in terms of the heat-transfer medium utilized and the necessary temperature. In general, storage development requires several scale-up steps linked to an extended development time before market acceptance can be achieved. Research and development for storage systems is focused on improving efficiency in terms of energy and energy losses; reducing costs; increasing service life; and lowering parasitic power requirements.

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