The SFERA-III project addresses advanced science challenges and integrated research activities in the field of Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) by integrating key European research infrastructures into an ambitious wide project aiming at offering to the R&D community a new level of high-quality services. According to the objectives of the European Union in the field of sustainable energy supply, climate change and energy security needs strong efforts in innovative technologies and education: the EU's Renewable energy directive sets a binding target of 20% final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 and 27% by 20301. Solar energy is the primary source of renewable energy and CST power can supply electricity on demand, the built-in thermal storage capabilities of CST plants are a decisive asset that distinguishes these plants from other highly variable renewable electricity production technologies like photovoltaic or wind power. In this context, this project aims at coordinating efforts of the main European research institution operating a unique set of Research Infrastructures (RIs) to promote innovative researches, to improve services offered by concentrating solar RIs and to train researchers and engineers on the CST technologies. Both academia and industry users are targeted.
The European Union is looking for the development of a coherent landscape of leading edge RI in Europe and is promoting the opening of key RIs in solar concentrating systems (solar concentrators and relating research infrastructures) for both academia and industries for carrying out energy and materials research as well as research in other fields using the extreme temperature conditions in solar concentrators. It is clearly indispensable to access research excellence and all types of know-how wherever it is located, and to tap into global innovation networks and value chains. At the same time, the training of a new generation of researchers and engineers is one of the objectives set by the European Union. Furthermore, the EU is encouraging the international cooperation, necessary to ensure the EU's scientific leadership and industrial competitiveness, especially for technologies that will address the global climate change by developing and diffusing renewable solar energy.