The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), joined by partners at Sandia National Laboratories and the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute, launched the Heliostat Consortium (HelioCon), an international effort to drive down the cost of heliostats.
HelioCon, led by NREL, emphasizes the significance of heliostats as a key component of concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technologies. CSP with low-cost thermal energy storage can be used either to produce dispatchable electricity or provide high-temperature heat to difficult-to-decarbonize industries, such as cement, steel, and chemical production.
Heliostats track the sun in order to reflect sunlight to a receiver, where it can be stored as heat for long-duration energy storage and converted into electricity. There can be more than 10,000 heliostats in a single CSP plant, representing 30%–50% of the cost of system construction and a primary driver of operations and maintenance costs.
Heliostats stand in front of a solar tower at the Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant in Nipton, California. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is working to lower heliostat costs, with a target of $50 per square meter, to reach its goal of $0.05 per kilowatt-hour for next-generation CSP plants, which incorporate thermal energy storage.
HelioCon will leverage the expertise of researchers from national laboratories, industry, and other research institutions across the globe.
As part of the strategic roadmap, HelioCon will develop standards, metrology, techno-economic analysis, and field deployment technologies to address heliostat costs. In addition, it seeks to increase domestic manufacturing of solar technologies and to bring more professionals into clean energy careers.
HelioCon is actively seeking to broaden the community working on this technology through its industry board of advisors and future requests for proposals, which will engage new leaders in this area.
HelioCon is funded by SETO.