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Concept: Concentrating solar power


Decisions determining the use of land for energy are of exigent concern as land scarcity, the need for ecosystem services, and demands for energy generation have concomitantly increased globally. Utility-scale solar energy (USSE) [i.e., ≥1 megawatt (MW)] development requires large quantities of space and land; however, studies quantifying the effect of USSE on land cover change and protected areas are limited. We assessed siting impacts of >160 USSE installations by technology type [photovoltaic (PV) vs. concentrating solar power (CSP)], area (in square kilometers), and capacity (in MW) within the global solar hot spot of the state of California (United States). Additionally, we used the Carnegie Energy and Environmental Compatibility model, a multiple criteria model, to quantify each installation according to environmental and technical compatibility. Last, we evaluated installations according to their proximity to protected areas, including inventoried roadless areas, endangered and threatened species habitat, and federally protected areas. We found the plurality of USSE (6,995 MW) in California is sited in shrublands and scrublands, comprising 375 km(2) of land cover change. Twenty-eight percent of USSE installations are located in croplands and pastures, comprising 155 km(2) of change. Less than 15% of USSE installations are sited in “Compatible” areas. The majority of “Incompatible” USSE power plants are sited far from existing transmission infrastructure, and all USSE installations average at most 7 and 5 km from protected areas, for PV and CSP, respectively. Where energy, food, and conservation goals intersect, environmental compatibility can be achieved when resource opportunities, constraints, and trade-offs are integrated into siting decisions.

Concepts: Sun, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Solar energy, Solar power, Nuclear power, Solar thermal energy, Concentrating solar power


The article describes the design phase, development and practical application of a low-cost control system for a forced circulation solar plant in an outdoor test cell located near Milan. Such a system provides for the use of an electric pump for the circulation of heat transfer fluid connecting the solar thermal panel to the storage tank. The running plant temperatures are the fundamental parameter to evaluate the system performance such as proper operation, and the control and management system has to consider these parameters. A solar energy-powered wireless-based smart object was developed, able to monitor the running temperatures of a solar thermal system and aimed at moving beyond standard monitoring approaches to achieve a low-cost and customizable device, even in terms of installation in different environmental conditions. To this end, two types of communications were used: the first is a low-cost communication based on the ZigBee protocol used for control purposes, so that it can be customized according to specific needs, while the second is based on a Bluetooth protocol used for data display.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Heat, Photovoltaics, Bluetooth, Solar energy, Solar thermal energy, Concentrating solar power, Solar thermal


Concentrating solar power plants (CSPPs) are considered to be particularly respectful of the environment but under Mediterranean climate where surface water scarcity is a key issue, these types of electrical plants usually require groundwater for their cooling towers and use the same aquifers to discharge their salinized effluents. This study analyses de Spanish case, where fifteen out of the fifty active CSPPs use groundwater directly, four discharge their effluents to infiltration ponds and forty-three to surface watercourses most of which recharge underlying aquifers. The volume of water withdrawn and discharged varies greatly among similar plants. The salinity of the effluent exceeds 2.5 times that of the withdrawn water in half of the plants and it may alter the current or potential use of the water turning it unsuitable for drinking or even for irrigation. There is a risk that the impact on groundwater can be extended to related ecosystems such as wetlands. This can become a serious environmental problem, but specific impacts on groundwater are often overlooked in environmental impact assessments of CSPPs and no research on the matter has been reported so far. Other legal and political implications of CSPPs are further discussed.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Hydrology, Aquifer, Irrigation, Environmental science, Solar energy, Concentrating solar power


This article presents technical data for concentrated solar power (CSP) plants in operation, under construction and in project all over the world in the form of tables. These tables provide information about plants (e.g., name of the CSP plant, country of construction, owner of the plant, aim of the plant) and their technical characteristics (e.g., CSP technology, solar power, area of the plant, presence and type of hybridization system, electricity cost, presence and type of TES, power cycle fluid, heat transfer fluid, operating temperature, operating pressure, type of turbine, type and duration of storage, etc.). Further interpretation of the data and discussions on the current state-of-the-art and future trends of CSP can be found in the associated research article (Pelay et al., 2017) [1].

Concepts: Solar energy, Solar power, Solar thermal energy, Concentrating solar power, Solar Energy Generating Systems, Solar thermal, PS10 solar power tower, Heliostat


Volumetric solar thermal conversion is an emerging technique for a plethora of applications such as solar thermal power generation, desalination, and solar water splitting. However, achieving broadband solar thermal absorption via dilute nanofluids is still a daunting challenge. In this work, full-spectrum volumetric solar thermal conversion is demonstrated over a thin layer of the proposed ‘photonic nanofluids’. The underlying mechanism is found to be the photonic superposition of core resonances, shell plasmons, and core-shell resonances at different wavelengths, whose coexistence is enabled by the broken symmetry of specially designed composite nanoparticles, i.e., Janus nanoparticles. The solar thermal conversion efficiency can be improved by 10.8% compared with core-shell nanofluids. The extinction coefficient of Janus dimers with various configurations is also investigated to unveil the effects of particle couplings. This work provides the possibility to achieve full-spectrum volumetric solar thermal conversion, and may have potential applications in efficient solar energy harvesting and utilization.

Concepts: Energy, Sun, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion, Solar energy, Nuclear power, Solar thermal energy, Concentrating solar power


We investigate the optical properties of LaB6 - based materials, as possible candidates for solid absorbers in Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) systems. Bulk LaB6 materials were thermally consolidated by hot pressing starting from commercial powders. To assess the solar absorbance and spectral selectivity properties, room-temperature hemispherical reflectance spectra were measured from the ultraviolet to the mid-infrared, considering different compositions, porosities and surface roughnesses. Thermal emittance at around 1100 K has been measured. Experimental results showed that LaB6 can have a solar absorbance comparable to that of the most advanced solar absorber material in actual plants such as Silicon Carbide, with a higher spectral selectivity. Moreover, LaB6 has also the appealing characteristics to be a thermionic material, so that it could act at the same time both as direct high-temperature solar absorber and as electron source, significantly reducing system complexity in future concentrating solar thermionic systems and bringing a real innovation in this field.

Concepts: Sun, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Solar energy, Solar power, Solar thermal energy, Concentrating solar power, Lanthanum hexaboride


This study shows an analysis of the stability of nanofluids based on the eutectic mixture of diphenyl oxide and biphenyl, used as a heat transfer fluid (HTF) in concentrating solar energy, and NiO nanoparticles. Two surfactants were used to analyze the stability of the nanofluids: Benzalkonium Chloride (BAC) and 1-Octadecanethiol (ODT). From an experimental perspective, the stability was analyzed using UV-vis spectroscopy, particle size measurements using the dynamic light scattering technique and  potential measurements. The results show that the stability of the nanofluids improved with the use of BAC. DFT calculations were performed to understand the role played by the surfactants. A study was performed into the interaction of the surfactants with both the fluid and the NiO (100) surface. The QTAIM analysis showed that hydrogen bridge interactions favor the stability of the fluid-surfactant mixture. The more stabilizing NiO-surfactant interaction involves the Ni-H interaction of the -SH and -CH3 groups of the ODT and BAC. Also, nanofluids with BAC is favored over that with ODT, which is in agreement with the experimental results. The structural and electronic effects of incorporating the surfactant onto the NiO (100) surface are shown using ELF analysis, the non-covalent interaction (NCI) index and PDOS.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Scattering, Scientific techniques, Colloidal chemistry, Solar energy, Light scattering, Dynamic light scattering, Concentrating solar power


This paper presents a novel Fresnel lens capable of significantly reducing chromatic aberration in solar applications. The optical performance of this achromatic lens has been analyzed through ray-tracing simulations, showing a concentration factor three times higher than that attained by a classic silicone on glass (SOG) Fresnel lens while maintaining the same acceptance angle. This should avoid the need for a secondary optical element, reducing the cost associated with its manufacturing and assembly and increasing the module reliability. The achromatic lens is made of inexpensive plastic and elastomer which allows a highly scalable and cost-competitive manufacturing process similar to the one currently used for the fabrication of SOG Fresnel lenses.

Concepts: Optics, Lens, Lenses, Chromatic aberration, Concentrating solar power, Fresnel lens, Abbe number, Achromatic lens


Concentrating solar technologies, which are fuelled by the direct normal component of solar irradiance (DNI), are among the most promising solar technologies. Currently, the state-of the-art methods for DNI evaluation use datasets of aerosol optical depth (AOD) with only coarse (typically monthly) temporal resolution. Using daily AOD data from both site-specific observations at ground stations as well as gridded model estimates, a methodology is developed to evaluate how the calculated long-term DNI resource is affected by using AOD data averaged over periods from 1 to 30 days. It is demonstrated here that the use of monthly representations of AOD leads to systematic underestimations of the predicted long-term DNI up to 10% in some areas with high solar resource, which may result in detrimental consequences for the bankability of concentrating solar power projects. Recommendations for the use of either daily or monthly AOD data are provided on a geographical basis.

Concepts: Sun, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Solar energy, Solar power, IBM, Concentrating solar power, Solar collector


The fluorescence spectra, quantum yields and lifetimes of a series of alkoxy-substituted phenylenevinylene molecules, which serve as short chain oligomer models for poly(p-phenylenevinylene), have been determined in fluid solvents and in a high viscosity polymer matrix. The effects of solvent polarity and a high viscosity molecular environment on the fluorescence yields and spectral shapes have been established. Alkoxy group substitution on the phenyl ring moieties of the molecules has an important effect on the vibronic structures and profiles of the absorption spectra. This was interpreted in terms of hot-band, ground to excited singlet state transitions from energetically closely-spaced torsional vibrational levels of the vinylene double bond in the ground state. The shapes of the absorption bands affect the overlaps of the absorption and fluorescence spectra. This has been quantified as the probability of fluorescence reabsorption in solid polymer films as a function of pathlength. This is an important determinant of the efficacies of these compounds for “harvesting” solar energy in luminescent solar concentrator systems. The reabsorption probabilities of these compounds are lower for all pathlengths than those determined in the same polymer film for the fluorophores, perylene and perylene diimide, which have been considered for concentrating spatially diffuse sunlight.

Concepts: Protein, Electron, Spectroscopy, Oxygen, Quantum mechanics, Polymer, Solvent, Concentrating solar power