[author: Matt Bingham]
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced yesterday that it will invest $5 million over the next five years on research to improve the molten salt-based heat transfer fluids used in concentrating solar projects (CSP), such as Abengoa's Solana Project near Gila Bend. The project will be led by the University of Arizona but will also include researchers from Arizona State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The grant is part of DOE's Sunshot Initiative, which is attempting to reduce the cost of solar energy through providing funding for research on high risk, high payoff ideas.
Unlike photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert light directly into electricity, CSP technologies capture the sun's heat in fluids which are then used to boil water and power a conventional steam turbine. Improving the heat transfer characteristics of the fluid used in a CSP plant improves the efficiency of the plant and, therefore, decreases the cost of energy produced by the plant.
The DOE also awarded $5 million to a university team led by UCLA to study liquid metals as potential replacements for molten salt-based fluids in CSP.
Read more here (Phoenix Business Journal).