Golden, Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is to test Alcoa’s new CSP parabolic trough system for efficiency and to evaluate its structural performance. NREL has installed one of Alcoa’s systems for the round of tests, which follows similar tests carried out at the Alcoa Technical Center outside of Pittsburgh, PA.
The project, which is being partially funded by a US$2.1 million DOE grant, will see complete test results revealed by the second quarter of 2010. The system will then undergo another phase of large-scale testing.
Alcoa’s aim is to make CSP a viable competitor in the United States. Current commercial systems use glass mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect the solar energy and convert it to heat and then electricity. The Alcoa product uses highly-reflective aluminium mirrors, which are more durable than glass mirrors, and is claimed to enable high-volume manufacturing techniques to lower installation costs
“We understand the end-customers’ need to lower the capital investment in these systems in order to lower the cost of energy,” said Dr. Eric F. M. Winter, Alcoa’s Director of 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.”