Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Research uses mirrors to make solar energy cost competitive

Date:
April 15, 2013
Source:
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)
Summary:
Concentrating solar power technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which can then be used to produce electricity, according to ongoing work by mechanical engineers. These technologies present a distinct advantage over photovoltaic (PV) cells in their ability to store the sun’s energy as thermal energy, experts say.

If the current national challenge to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of this decade is met, Ranga Pitchumani, the John R. Jones III Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, will have played a significant role in the process.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative in February 2011. Its objective was to reduce the installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent in order to allow widespread, large-scale adoption of this renewable clean energy technology.

Following the announcement, Pitchumani was invited to direct the Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) program for the SunShot Initiative towards its ambitious goals.

"The SunShot goal is to get solar energy technologies to achieve cost-parity with other energy generation sources on the grid without subsidy by the year 2020. That's an aggressive mission which calls for several subcomponent innovations and ingenious system designs to drive costs down, while improving efficiencies," said Pitchumani.

"Concentrating solar power technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which can then be used to produce electricity," Pitchumani explained. These technologies present a distinct advantage over photovoltaic (PV) cells in their ability to store the sun's energy as thermal energy, and represent a subset of the SunShot Initiative. Pitchumani is a leading expert in the field of concentrating solar power. He and his research group at Virginia Tech have developed novel thermal energy storage technologies for concentrating solar power applications that are widely published. He is the overall conference chair for SolarPACES 2013 this year, the foremost international meeting in the area of concentrating solar power systems, and is an editor for Solar Energy.

"Fossil fueled power plants pose a potential risk to the environment through an increased carbon footprint, and my efforts are in supplanting fossil energy with renewable sources including solar energy. Concentrating solar power plants capture the solar energy and store it as heat, which can, in turn, be used to drive a turbine and produce electricity. In fact, studies have shown that CSP with thermal energy storage also facilitates greater incorporation of other renewables such as wind and photovoltaic on the grid. That's a win-win on all fronts," Pitchumani said.

"Due to the intermittent nature of solar energy availability, it is often desirable to store thermal energy from a concentrating solar power plant for use on demand, including at times when solar energy is unavailable such as during cloud cover or overnight. Energy can be stored either as sensible heat (in solid or molten media), latent heat (using phase change materials), or as products of a thermochemical process, of which latent heat and thermochemical storage offer high volumetric energy density and potentially high power cycle efficiency, provided costs can be tamed," he added.

In his role, Pitchumani oversees a team of several program managers, technical, financial and support personnel, who actively manage the awards in the portfolio. During his leadership, the SunShot Concentrating Solar Power Program has launched over $130 million in new funding initiatives since October 2011. Combined with the awards continuing from prior funding opportunities, the program maintains an appropriately balanced portfolio of projects at industry, national laboratories, and universities dedicated to applied scientific research, development and demonstration to advance cutting edge concentrating solar power technologies for the near-, mid- and long-terms.

Concentrating solar power plants could provide for low-cost energy generation and have the potential to become the leading source of renewable energy for future power generation. In the U.S., several large-scale commercial plants (e.g., Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station (SEGS), Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, and Abengoa Solana Generating Station) are currently under construction, with some getting ready to be commissioned starting in a few months, that would more than triple the total capacity of Concentrating Solar Power-generated electricity to about 1.8 gigawatt and place the U.S. as one of the global leaders in CSP capacity.

On a worldwide scale, studies suggest that concentrating solar power technology systems could provide approximately one-quarter of the global electricity needs by 2050, Pitchumani said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). "Research uses mirrors to make solar energy cost competitive." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130415123920.htm>.
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). (2013, April 15). Research uses mirrors to make solar energy cost competitive. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130415123920.htm
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). "Research uses mirrors to make solar energy cost competitive." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130415123920.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins