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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Granholm: "DOE’s investments will drive the innovation necessary to build a clean energy economy"

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $24 million to 10 research teams focused on developing next-generation concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technologies, according to a release published Tuesday.

Five of the projects will aim to advance industrial uses for this technology, especially in the cement, hydrogen, and chemical sectors, helping to achieve the goals expressed in the DOE's new Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap and Industrial Heat Shot.

The other five projects will support the development of CSP plants, which can generate low-cost electricity at any time of day. These announcements are related to President Joe Biden's goal of reaching a national net-zero economy by 2050.

“Solar-thermal technologies provide us with a significant opportunity to upgrade and reduce emissions of industrial plants across the nation while meeting America’s energy needs with reliable, around-the-clock power generation,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. “DOE’s investments will drive the innovation necessary to build out a clean energy economy and meet our climate goals while diversifying the sources of dependable and readily available clean energy.”

CSP technologies use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver and can use a turbine to generate electricity. Additionally, these technologies can also be used to deliver heat to a wide array of industrial applications such as water desalination, food processing, chemical production, and mineral processing.

The awards were announced at the International Energy Agency's Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems (SolarPACES) conference, hosted by the DOE in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The recipients will research, develop and demonstrate projects capable of working to decarbonize the energy sector.

The five industrial carbonization awards were given to the following organizations: $4.1 million to Heliogen in Pasadena, California, to demonstrate a CSP process for decarbonizing the heating of limestone to 950 degrees Celcius, which may reduce the carbon emissions created by manufacturing cement; $2.6 million to Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque to streamline the heat-transfer processes and designs associated with the production of the solar-thermal production of cement; $2.3 million to Solar Dynamics in Broomfield, Colorado, to develop and test designs of new molten salt thermal energy storage tanks to enable the on-demand delivery of carbon-free heat; $2.2 million to the University of Florida in Gainesville to develop an efficient and scalable solar thermochemical reactor for the production of hydrogen from water and sunlight and $2 million to the University of Maryland College Park to develop a new chemical reactor to decarbonize the production of key chemical precursor propylene.

The five Gen3 solid particle technologies awards were given to the following: $1.6 million to GE Research in Niskayuna, New York, for the designing of a supercritical carbon-dioxide power block optimized for Gen3 CSP that uses solid particles; $3.1 million to Mississippi State University for the development of a new particle-based thermochemical CSP energy storage system; $1 million to Albuquerque for the designing of high-temperature mass flow sensors, which use solid particles to move and store thermal energy for the reliable operation of Gen3 CSP systems; $1.9 million to Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque for the designing of a modular slide gate system for control of particle flows in CSP receivers, in collaboration with an industrial valve manufacturer and $3.1 million to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the development of a prototype particle-to-sCO2 heat exchanger using advanced design and manufacturing techniques.

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