Solar Two, a 1990s-era demonstration facility in Southern California, allowed DOE to investigate the use of thermal energy storage for CSP plants. (Warren Gretz/NREL)

DOE is offering $52.5 million for research, development, and demonstration of concentrating solar power (CSP) systems that provide low-cost electrical power both day and night. CSP technologies concentrate the sun's energy and capture that energy as heat, which then drives an engine or turbine to produce electrical power.

Current CSP technologies used in utility-scale power plants typically do not have the capability or capacity for energy storage, and can only operate during daytime hours.

With the $52.5 million, the Department of Energy seeks to improve energy storage technology and develop novel system designs that will extend operations to a level of production that would make it possible for a CSP plant to displace a traditional coal power plant.

The competitive funding opportunity is for up to 13 awards, and involves two areas:

  • Research and development of concepts and components for a CSP system that enables a plant to produce low-cost electricity at least 18 hours of the day.
  • Evaluation of the feasibility and development of a prototype complete CSP system capable of operating at least 18 hours per day while generating low-cost power.

Applications are due by October 15, 2009.