International recognition for solar thermal energy research at Stellenbosch

The Solar Thermal Energy Research Group (STERG) at Stellenbosch Universityhas received international recognition for their research excellence and standing within the concentrating solar power (CSP) community. STERG has as a consortium member been selected to receive a $2,0 million awardfrom the United States of America (U.S.) Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO).

The consortium is led byĀ SolarReserve, a worldwide developer of large scale solar power projects and advanced solar thermal technology. SolarReserve is investor and technology provider to the South African Redstone CSP project. The third consortium partner is the U.S.-basedĀ Sandia National Laboratories, offering the state-of-the-art Concentrating Solar Power testing facilities at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF), operated by Sandia for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Prof Johan van der Spuy, STERG Manager, says: “STERG been actively involved in research on the utilisation of solar thermal energy for application in the fields of process heat and electricity generation. This funding creates a unique opportunity for South African researchers and engineers to apply their knowledge in taking part in the development of a next-generation heliostat system. Their involvement will build on experience gained during theĀ Helio100Ā technology innovation project, funded by theĀ Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), an initiative of theĀ Department of Science and Technology.”

The SETO award supports SolarReserve’s development of a next generation heliostat system that aims to make substantial progress in cost reduction and performance for the concentrating system in a solar power tower, aligned to the timing goals of the Energy Department’s Generation 3 Concentrating Solar Power Systems (Gen3 CSP) programme. Gen3 CSP projects are working to advance next-generation CSP systems that can operate at higher temperatures in order to store more heat, reducing the cost of CSP systems by increasing the efficiency of the plant. Since the heliostat field can account for up to 50% of a CSP project’s capital cost, it is a critical component in any cost reduction initiatives.

Dr Matti Lubkoll, Coordinator of STERG, says: “STERG has long held the belief that the key to unlocking the potential of concentrating solar power technologies in the South African context lies in cost reduction of the technology and its components. We are excited that our HelioPod technology was recognised to form part of this project to expand on its ability to reduce the cost of CSP while improving system performance. We are thankful to our funders, in particular the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) that have proudly supported us and our research and development to date.”

About the Solar Energy Technologies Office
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more atĀ