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US funds aluminium-based CSP system

Alcoa will use aluminium instead of glass mirrors to generate power by concentrating solar power (CSP).

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has awarded US$2.1 million to replace glass with reflective aluminium mirrors, which are more durable to use in CSP projects. DoE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is working with the aluminium producer to make CSP technology competitive in the USA by lowering its cost to generate energy.

NREL and Alcoa recently installed an Alcoa-designed CSP parabolic trough at NREL's facility in Golden, Colorado, following successful tests at the Alcoa Technical Center near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The next round of testing will measure the efficiency of the 6 m by 14 m CSP collector and evaluate its structural performance, with results expected by the second quarter of this year.

"NREL is looking forward to performing outdoor efficiency tests on the innovative new parabolic trough collector developed by Alcoa,” says Chuck Kutscher of NREL. “We are excited to see a major US-based manufacturer entering the CSP market through the financial support of the Department of Energy's Funding Opportunity Announcement Program."

Aluminium lowers costs and simplifies CSP installation

The Alcoa design with aluminium enables high-volume manufacturing techniques to lower CSP installation costs, plus its monolithic structure enables a simple ‘drop-in-place’ collector for easy installation. The Alcoa CSP design includes sheet, extrusions and fasteners.

The CSP design leverages high-volume manufacturing and assembly approaches used in the aerospace and automotive markets, as well as the Alcoa’s materials and technology leadership to lower the cost of CSP trough systems.

“We understand the end-customers’ need to lower the capital investment in these systems in order to lower the cost of energy,” explains Eric Winter of Alcoa’s Development Laboratories.

“After listening to numerous industry experts, our multi-faceted team combined its materials knowledge with design, manufacturing and engineered finishes capabilities to develop a system solution that enables manufacturers to more easily scale up to meet the growing demand for this solar technology.”

CSP is dispatchible

One of the benefits of CSP technology is that thermal energy can be stored and used during periods of clouds and at night. CSP can also provide grid stability and increased capacity factors compared to solar photovoltaic (PV) applications.

Alcoa employs 59,000 people in 31 countries.

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