Simultaneously Generating Electricity and Storable Heat with a Hybrid Solar Energy System

Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and the California Energy Commission are funding a follow-on project to scale up GTI Energy’s hybrid solar energy system to advance new disruptive solar conversion and storage technology options.

GTI Energy and University of California, Merced will demonstrate the emerging high-temperature Solar Thermal with Storage (STS) for on-demand process heating at an industrial plant in California to verify performance, energy savings, and emissions benefits. The goal is to reduce natural gas use and enable a higher penetration of solar energy into the U.S. energy mix.

This project will integrate a 60kW thermal collector with particle thermal energy storage, combining high-temperature solar thermal energy with an industrial process to significantly reduce its natural gas use. The STS technology heats the feed material or adds heat directly to the product at a high efficiency, which can improve the process. Since the STS technology can provide energy directly to the product, natural gas reductions can exceed supplied solar thermal in lower efficiency industrial processes. It has a significant value proposition for industrial customers, ultimately enabling broad market deployment and substantial gas savings for California industrial markets.

The initial hybrid solar energy system project, funded by ARPA-E with additional financial support from Utilization Technology Development (UTD) and Southern California Gas Company, can simultaneously generate electricity and storable heat. The team composed of GTI Energy, University of California at Merced (UC Merced), and MicroLink Devices, Inc. recently completed successful testing of the hybrid system and met critical ARPA-E project milestones.

The breakthrough technology maximizes the amount of heat that can be derived from solar panels, has the potential to enable production of renewable power at grid-competitive prices, and could play a role in opening the microgrid market for dispatchable electricity and solar energy use in industrial process heating.

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