NREL launches HelioCon to develop advanced heliostat technology

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the U.S. DOE (Department of Energy) has reportedly launched the HelioCon (Heliostat Consortium), a global initiative to reduce heliostats pricing.

The launch was executed in collaboration with the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute and Sandia National Laboratories.

According to Guangdong Zhu, the Director of Heliostat Consortium, HelioCon will be a comprehensive powerhouse that centralizes the efforts of the United States to develop advanced heliostat technology. Zhu added that the Consortium will also use global expertise towards attaining the aggressive goals of DOE.

HelioCon underpins the importance of heliostats as a crucial part of the CSP (concentrating solar thermal power) technologies. CSP with affordable thermal energy storage is ideal either for delivering high-temperature heat or producing dispatchable electricity for industries like cement, chemical production, and steel that are hard to decarbonize.

Heliostats trace the position of the sun to reflect sunlight to a receiver. This can result in long-term energy storage which is converted into electricity. A single plant of CSP can add over 10,000 heliostats, holding nearly 30% to 50% of system operations, construction, and maintenance costs.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) of DOE has been increasing efforts to mitigate heliostat costs nearly USD 50 per sq. meter to attain its goal of USD 0.05 per kWh for next-gen CSP plants with thermal energy storage.

Researchers from industry, national laboratories, and other research institutions will provide contributions to HelioCon.

According to the strategic roadmap of HelioCon, standards, metrology, techno-economic analysis, and field deployment technologies will be developed to mitigate heliostat costs. Furthermore, it works to upscale domestic manufacturing of solar technologies to garner the attention of more professionals towards clean energy careers.

Heliostat Consortium is funded by SETO. The Consortium, through its future proposal requests and industry board of advisors, is vigorously engaged in broadening the community working on the technology along with new leader engagement.

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