SunShot program aiming to make solar more realistic

| by Heather Ferrier Laminack
SunShot program aiming to make solar more realistic

The Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national initiative to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Their aim is that by reducing the installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent, it will drive widespread, large-scale adoption of this renewable energy technology and restore U.S. leadership in the global clean energy race.

The initiative sets forth a plan to aggressively drive innovation and make large-scale solar energy systems cost-competitive with other forms of unsubsidized energy. To accomplish this, the U.S. Department of Energy is supporting efforts by private companies, academia, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to about $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. This in turn will enable solar-generated power to account for 15–18 percent of America's electricity generation by 2030.

Inspired by President Kennedy's "moon shot" program that put the first man on the moon, the SunShot Initiative requires a national effort to use "the best of our energies and skills" to accomplish its goals.

Just this week, Secretary Steven Chu announced that new investments totaling $10 million over five years for two university-led projects to advance innovative Concentrating Solar Power(CSP) system technologies. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat that can be used to produce electricity. Heat transfer fluids are a key component of CSP systems that transfer heat from a receiver to the point where the heat is needed to drive a turbine. The investments announced today will dramatically improve heat transfer fluids, increasing their efficiency and lowering costs for CSP systems.

Two university teams were selected to develop new heat transfer fluids including:

  • University of California–Los Angeles ($5 million over five years) is leading a team with researchers from Yale University and the University of California–Berkeley to investigate liquid metals as potential heat transfer fluids with the ability to withstand higher temperatures.
  • University of Arizona ($5 million over five years) is teaming with researchers from Arizona State University and Georgia Tech to develop and demonstrate new, molten salt-based, fluids as possible alternatives to traditional heat transfer fluids.

These investments are part of the Energy Department's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, which brings together university teams from many different scientific disciplines to advance innovative research, accelerate technology transfer into the marketplace, and prepare a new generation of scientists and engineers to become leaders in the solar power industry.

Topics: Solar Power

Heather Ferrier Laminack
Representing the fourth generation of the Ferrier Companies, Heather Ferrier Laminack functions as the marketing manager for Texas-based green home builder Ferrier Custom Homes, utilizing her passion for sustainable building practices and her first-hand experience of green building techniques. View Heather Ferrier Laminack's profile on LinkedIn

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