Conversion Tower for Dispatchable Solar Power

Abengoa Solar
High-Efficiency Solar-Electric Conversion Power Tower
Graphic of Abengoa's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$3,796,769
Location: 
Lakewood, CO
Project Term: 
01/11/2012 to 01/10/2015
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
There is a critical need to find efficient, cost-effective thermal energy storage solutions to maximize the use of domestic solar and nuclear energy resources. Most utility-scale solar power plants only run at about 25% of their capacity because they can't generate power at night--thermal energy storage makes it possible to increase this capacity to up to 60-75%. Similarly, nuclear power plants produce a constant output of power--thermal energy storage could help increase this output during times of critical peak demand.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Abengoa Solar is developing a high-efficiency solar-electric conversion tower to enable low-cost, fully dispatchable solar energy generation. Abengoa's conversion tower utilizes new system architecture and a two-phase thermal energy storage media with an efficient supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) power cycle. The company is using a high-temperature heat-transfer fluid with a phase change in between its hot and cold operating temperature. The fluid serves as a heat storage material and is cheaper and more efficient than conventional heat-storage materials, like molten salt. It also allows the use of a high heat flux solar receiver, advanced high thermal energy density storage, and more efficient power cycles.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, Abengoa would reduce the cost of solar energy generation by 30% compared to existing state-of-the-art storage technologies--significantly reducing the cost of renewable solar electricity.
Security: 
Cost-effective thermal energy storage would enable increased use of domestic energy resources like solar and nuclear--strengthening the nation's energy security.
Environment: 
Cost-effective thermal energy power generation could help decrease fossil fuel-based electricity use and harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants.
Economy: 
Thermal energy storage systems could make it less expensive to generate power from nuclear and renewable solar energy, which in turn could help stabilize electricity rates for consumers.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. James Klausner
Project Contact: 
Drake Tilley
Partners
Abener
Barber Nichols
Impact Technology Development
Sandia National Lab