The energy company E.ON has launched a €6 million fund to further develop solar power technologies to provide an ‘always on’ capability and the potential to generate electricity at utility scale.
The funding will provide an opportunity for universities and research institutes to develop concentrating solar power (CSP) technology.
Applications for grant awards for projects are being accepted now as part of E.ON’s International Research Initiative (IRI), a 10-year, €60 million programme designed to contribute to global research into practical, economic and sustainable energy supplies for the future.
The closing date for CSP proposals is the end of February, with successful projects expected to be underway by the start of 2011.
E.ON is calling for projects that improve the heat storage technologies used in CSP, but consideration will also be given to applications that seek to exploit better or alternative ways for CSP technologies to store thermal energy captured from the sun.
The overall aim is to expand the role of CSP in future energy systems by demonstrating that the technology is commercially viable.
The choice of CSP as a development topic stems from E.ON’s belief that it will become an important source of future renewable electricity generation. In this vision, utility-scale solar thermal power stations will use CSP to collect the sun’s rays. The captured energy would be stored by heating fluids or solid materials that would provide energy, as and when required, to drive steam generators to produce electricity.
This ‘on demand’ capability would enable CSP to support security of supply. Such an ability to generate electricity around the clock, including during darkness, would overcome the intermittent nature of forms of renewable energy that are dependent on favourable weather conditions.
Among the key areas for further development in existing CSP heat storage systems are the storage medium, materials and insulation for storage tanks, and the integration and optimisation of overall CSP systems.
Other technologies that might be adapted for CSP applications are latent heat storage, using phase change materials, and heat storage by means of reversible chemical reactions.
Previous IRI award funding took place in 2007 and 2008. Ten research projects were selected to develop energy storage systems which will increase the role of renewable resources in providing electricity.
Another tranche of nine projects is underway to investigate the use of nanotechnology in the energy industry. These are examining how molecular-scale innovation can improve energy production, conversion and storage.
The aim is that the results of IRI projects benefit society as a whole. Findings, while remaining the property of the researchers, will be made available to the public. E.ON will not claim any exclusive rights to the knowledge.
Further information on E.ON’s IRI and the CSP project call, including details of the grant application process, are at http://www.eon.com/research_initiative