The Department of Energy (DOE) supports research and development of concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies as a unique path to achieve SunShot Initiative cost targets with systems that can supply solar power on demand through the use of thermal storage. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat. Thermal energy can then be used to produce electricity via a turbine or heat engine driving a generator.
Research and Development
CSP technologies are deployed primarily in four system configurations: parabolic trough and linear Fresnel focus sunlight in a linear fashion whereas dish engines and power towers (also known as central receivers) focus sunlight to a point. Though CSP systems use different configurations to focus the sunlight, they share similar components such as collectors, receivers, power block, and thermal storage. DOE funds CSP research and development focused on developing the component technologies to achieve the technical and economic targets of the SunShot goal. The program also funds systems analysis on all of the CSP technologies to assess performance, longevity, and cost.
DOE provides funding, through competitive awards, to industry, national laboratories, and universities with the shared goal of making large-scale dispatchable solar energy systems cost competitive without subsidies by the end of the decade. You can find a full list of all SunShot CSP competitive awards as of May 2014 in the SunShot Initiative Portfolio Book.