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Small Mirrors for Solar Power Tower Plants

Otherlab
Adaptive Fluidic Solar Collectors
Picture of Otherlab's Small Mirrors for Solar Power Tower Plants
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$4,290,432
Location: 
San Francisco, CA
Project Term: 
02/19/2013 to 09/30/2017
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) systems are a promising clean energy alternative to traditional sources of electricity generation, such as coal-burning power plants. One of the biggest obstacles to the widespread deployment of CSP plants is the fact that they are not cost competitive with conventional sources of energy generation. New CSP technologies must improve energy conversion efficiency while driving down costs in order to make them competitive with traditional power generation methods and help position the U.S. as a leader in the global renewable energy industry.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Otherlab is developing an inexpensive small mirror system with an innovative drive system to reflect sunlight onto concentrating solar power towers at greatly reduced cost. This system is an alternative to expensive and bulky 20-30 foot tall mirrors and expensive sun-tracking drives used in today's concentrating solar power plants. In order for solar power tower plants to compete with conventional electricity generation, these plants need dramatic component cost reductions and lower maintenance and operational expenses. Otherlab's approach uses a smaller modular mirror design that reduces handling difficulty, suffers less from high winds, and allows the use of mass manufacturing processes for low-cost component production. These mirrors can be driven by mechanisms that utilize simpler, more readily serviceable parts which decreases system downtime and efficiency. The incorporation of low-cost and highly-scalable manufacturing approaches could significantly reduce the cost of solar electricity generation below conventional solar tower plant technologies.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, Otherlab's approach would reduce the cost of installed solar power tower mirror fields by over 70%.
Security: 
Cost-effective solar energy would increase U.S. renewable energy use and help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Environment: 
Replacing energy systems powered by fossil fuels would provide an immediate decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, of which electricity generation accounts for over 40%.
Economy: 
Cost-effective renewable energy alternatives would reduce fuel prices and stabilize electricity rates for consumers.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Christopher Atkinson
Project Contact: 
Dr. Leila Madrone
Release Date: 
11/28/2012