What is the EERA JP-CSP

The 1 MW CNRS solar furnace

The Joint Programme was formally launched in November 2011; nevertheless, main participants held beforehand a series of preparatory meetings aiming at shaping the content of the JP research programme.

The overall objective of this JP is to integrate and coordinate the scientific collaboration among the leading European research institutions in CSP in order to contribute to the achievement of the targets initially set by the "Solar Thermal Electricity-European Industrial Initiative" (STE-EII) and, later on, by the SET-Plan:

  • Supporting the STE industry, in the short term, to achieve significant cost reductions, to increase commercial deployment worldwide and, in the medium term, through the integration of national and European road-maps.
  • Clustering of European R&D activities on CSP/STE to develop exploitable breakthrough technologies, novel concepts and innovative configurations enabling improvements in system efficiency and final cost. Significant effort will be devoted to Thermal Energy Storage (TES) as a means to provide low carbon base-load and backup power.
  • Defining a limited and clear priority of scientific and technological targets/challenges in each current CSP/STE technology (JP-CSP Sub-Programmes) for the effective cost reduction and increase benefits in social and environmental impact.
  • Increasing the integration of CSP into the energy system through cost-effective solutions supporting the decarbonisation of all main energy sectors, including residential/industrial process heat applications and transport through thermal and chemical storage (thermochemical production of solar fuels, power-to-gas, power-to-liquids).
  • Addressing all previous challenges in the context of aligned European and Member States Research and Innovation objectives to leverage the research potential and optimise integrated resources in the CSP/STE field at European level.

The JP was awarded with an EC grant (FP7) for running an Integrated Research Programme (IRP) on CSP technologies and, later on, with an ECRIA (H2020) grant on Solar Heat for Industrial Processes.

Structure (sub-programmes)

SP1 Line Focusing Systems Coordinator: Julián Blanco, CIEMAT (ES)

Solar thermal power plants have experienced an important commercial deployment throughout the last decade. In particular, solar fields based on the parabolic-trough technology using thermal oil as heat transfer fluid in the receiver are widely extended. But there is still potential to improve the technology of line-focusing solar collectors and increase the overall plant efficiency while reducing the investment costs and the environmental impact. The main objective of this sub-programme is to contribute to the research and technology development of line-focusing solar thermal energy systems. The activities planned pursue the following objectives:

  • Increase the reliability and performance of solar fields with line-focus solar collectors (parabolic-troughs, linear Fresnel reflectors or any new collector design).
  • Development of methods and techniques to monitor and measure performance of solar components and development of equipment to improve their operation and maintenance.
  • Solutions to reduce the solar field costs.
  • For the medium term development, explore and develop new concepts and technologies suitable for distributed energy applications, including electricity generation, industrial process heat applications and solar heating/cooling of large buildings.

SP2 Point Focusing CSP Systems Coordinator: Marcelino Sánchez, CENER (ES)

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is a promising renewable energy due to the abundant amount o solar energy incident in the Earth. The flexible thermal storage and the dispatchability allow larger penetration of other technology providing a great future. However, the cost reduction is a key aspect to achieve more competitive systems. The main objective of this sub-programme is to advance in the Point-Focusing CSP to increase the efficiencies of the plants and to reduce the LCOE. The specific advantages of the power tower technology are twofold:

  • High area concentration ratios (C) allow high operating temperatures of the solar receiver (beyond 1000 ºC), which in turn enable a good thermal efficiency of the connected thermodynamic power cycle (theoretically limited by the Carnot efficiency), reducing the levelized cost of electricity. State-of-the-art technology corresponds to molten salts at 560 ºC but solar air receivers could drive supercritical CO2 cycles or Brayton cycles beyond 1000 ºC . For the case of solar combined cycles, power cycle efficiencies are expected to reach values beyond 50%.
  • High receiver operating temperatures increase the cost effectiveness of proposed sensible heat thermal energy storage systems since the achievable temperature difference is obviously higher, reducing the required mass of thermal energy storage media, and thus reducing specific costs per stored energy.
  • Thus, the combination of higher solar-to-electricity conversion efficiencies and cheaper thermal energy storage options forms the most interesting area of research and development when it comes to competitive dispatchable solar energy supply.

Although there are many tasks that can be carried out related to those purposes, they have grouped taking into account the specific need to be addressed:

  • Near term needs to increase maturity and robustness of current commercial technology available.
  • Long term needs: to facilitate the development of innovative concepts, paving the way to the necessary technological breakthroughs.
  • Implementation needs to reduce the time to market of the successful R&D projects.

SP3: Thermal Energy Storage Coordinator: Walter Gaggioli, ENEA (IT)

The present subprogram is dedicated at the development of the Thermal Energy Storage (TES) systems customized for Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and/or Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) plants. The CSP/CST systems employ appropriate optical systems (concentrators) to collect and concentrate the direct solar radiation and send it on a receiver, where it is absorbed and converted into a high-temperature thermal energy. In the receiver, the thermal energy is transferred to a heat transfer fluid, which can be employed in a thermal cycle for the production of power electricity or of power heat useful in many industrial processes. The cost of CSP plants and STE (STE Solar Thermal Energy). electricity varies significantly depending on the technology, the size of the plant, the thermal storage system, the local labour and land cost, and the level of maturity (i.e. pilot, demo, commercial) of the project. The investment and financing costs account for more than 80% of the electricity cost. The TES systems for solar applications constitute a system to compensate the decoupling between production and demand of energy and, according to the type of TES utilized, can increase the efficiency of use of solar energy sources and energy saving, following three different strategies:

  • Buffering (all scale)
  • Time-shifting (small scale)
  • Extension of the production period (all scale)

SP4: Materials for CSP Coordinator: Peter Heller, DLR (DE)

The general objective of this subprogram is to improve the main materials used in STE. Focus is laid on providing methods, tools and facilities to evaluate and improve the performance, on understanding degradation effects under operation schemes and on predicting the durability of the main materials. In concrete, the main objectives are:

  • to develop and test materials for the enhancement of the optical and thermal properties of key components while maintaining or improving their durability;
  • to investigate the occurrence of abrasion and soiling under desert conditions and simulate the effects under laboratory conditions;
  • to develop methods of accelerated ageing for reflectors and absorbers that provide more precise estimations of degradation over lifetime;
  • to design test benches and facilities to allow for accelerated ageing of materials;
  • to improve first surface mirrors and enhance the durability of the front protection layer;
  • to analyze the suitability of enhanced materials for high temperature processes; and
  • to qualify new HTF materials for increased plant performance, durability and environmental benefit

SP5: Solar Driven Thermochemical Processes Coordinator: Martin Roeb, DLR (DE)

Objective of this subtask is to improve the solar chemical production processes, to get them practicably feasible and to get them closer to their theoretical efficiency limits. Larger scale demonstration activities are necessary to get the technologies closer to market application, as well. The following step is the first market introduction which will prepare the entry into the market learning curve that will finally lead to the cost reduction to be competitive. The field is dived into three tasks: solar fuels, solar commodities and base materials, and solar thermochemical storage with several links (tool-wise as well as topic-wise) between those sections. Materials aspects, receiver and reactor development, process control and techno-economic analysis are crosscutting issues relevant for all those tasks.

Based on this background SP5 seek to address the following objectives:

  • improvement of solar-to-fuel efficiencies of thermochemical processes for fuel production
  • development of key functional materials and key components acting as solar interfaces
  • develop and validate smart operating and control procedures to run the respective chemical processes in a continuous mode
  • demonstration of implementation of solar heat into chemical processes in relevant scale under realistic boundary conditions
  • create and demonstrate production pathways based on a closed-carbon-cycle approach and using abundant raw materials like water and CO2
  • develop and apply numerical tools able to predict component and plant performance as well as the technology potential in a reliable way

SP6: Solar Heat for Industrial Processes and Applications Coordinator: Peter Nitz, Fraunhofer (DE)

The general objective of the current Sub-Programme aims at addressing the specificities of the use of Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) technologies in the Industrial framework. Approximately ¾ of the global primary energy demand for industry stands for heat supply. Medium and high temperature Solar Heat for Industrial Processes (SHIP) can therefore significantly contribute to the decarbonisation of the industrial sector. Dwelling on the technological developments sought in SP1 and SP2 at CST technology, SP3 at Thermal Energy Storage and SP4 at Materials levels, the Sub-Programme focus on addressing the main technical and technological challenges faced by CST technologies on SHIP applications, defining the boundary conditions for the development of well suited technologies. Such boundary conditions are also sought when addressing Energy Intensive sectors, thus in close relation with the specific technology developments sought in SP5. As so, the Sub-Programme enforces research activities aligned with the following specific objectives:

  • Development of targeted steam integration concepts for medium temperature applications aiming not only the development of optimized supply level integration concepts but also standardized Balance of Plant (BoP) concepts enabling an approach to cost-effective “plug & play” solutions to the integration of solar driven steam in steam distribution networks;
  • Specification of boundary conditions for the design of solar concentrating technologies optimizing the use of available rooftop and façade areas in industrial plant buildings;
  • Development of suitable industrial environment specific durability tests for collector components including the specification of materials and the definition of component and material testing suiting the environmental conditions existing in different industrial sectors (e.g. outdoor and indoor corrosivity, dusting/soiling conditions) increasing the reliability of SHIP collectors;
  • Development of hybridization concepts for large industry sites and industry parks, including resource efficiency (integration of energy and resource efficiency in waste and water- flows);
  • Development of tools for 100% RES concepts combining energy efficiency of processes (changing technology and optimizing heat integration) and heat integration of total sites with an innovative design of various energy supply technologies that interact with each other (in series or parallel).

Additionally, considering the relevance of economic and financial aspects in the market penetration of SHIP, competitiveness related questions such as heat supply costs benchmarking and technology cost reduction are also included among the results sought for SP6.