Solar tower power station in Almería, Spain
So­lar tow­er pow­er sta­tion in Almería, Spain
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Solar tower power station in Almería, Spain

The so­lar tow­er at the Platafor­ma So­lar de Almería, Spain, is sur­round­ed by an ar­ray of mir­rors which con­cen­trate sun­light on­to re­ceivers. The re­sult­ing heat drives a gen­er­a­tor tur­bine. Platafor­ma So­lar de Almería is owned by the Span­ish re­search cen­tre CIEMAT.

The conversion of solar radiation into usable energy plays an important role in environmentally-friendly and climate-compatible energy systems. Our research focuses on the development of components and systems for solar thermal power plants. The work on components for parabolic trough power plants and tower power plants is carried out at DLR’s own test facilities, using new measurement technologies and simulation tools, in close collaboration with partners from research and industry. The specific aim is the reduction of costs for these technologies. The research subject also includes the development of new application areas for solar thermal technologies, for example industrial processes. Solar-chemical process engineering is of growing significance, particularly the generation of fuels using solar radiation.

DLR solar research work is consolidated at the DLR Institute of Solar Research. It is closely intertwined with the work at the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics and the DLR Institute of Materials Research. DLR solar research is carried out at the three DLR sites in Cologne, Stuttgart and Jülich, respectively, as well as at the largest European test centre for concentrated solar technologies, the Plataforma Solar de Almería, belonging to our Spanish research partner CIEMAT.

Power plant operation and components

One research focus is the development of new heat-carrier fluids, which are stable at high temperatures yet have good heat-transfer and heat-storage properties. Molten salts and ceramic particles, in particular, are at the heart of our investigations. Based on these, systems can be developed that are significantly more efficient, have lower costs and can be operated more flexibly. Associated with this is the development of technical components for solar thermal power plants, both for trough and tower systems. The effects of environmental conditions in, for instance, desert locations on the degree of efficiency and the service life of solar power plants as a whole play a big role in current work. Furthermore, we also support industry in the development of economic heliostats, which are needed to concentrate the radiation onto the receiver.

High temperature processes and solar fuels

One of our research focuses lies on the development of solar radiation for use in chemical process engineering. The aim here is to generate hydrogen or synthetic gas from the basic materials, water and carbon dioxide using high temperature solar heat. The research work will improve our understanding of the reaction mechanisms in order to store solar energy with greater efficiency.

Qualification of components

The development of methods for qualifying components and systems is the basis for developing standards. The focus is on the efficiency and service life of solar thermal power plants. Research is being carried out with external partners, particularly on the next generation of parabolic trough solar power plants using direct solar evaporation and molten salts. The focus is particularly on the development and qualification of tailored components to be able to increase the temperature in the collector field as well as the development and demonstration of optimised integration concepts, operating strategies and control algorithms.

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