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DLR and University of Évora Reached Agreement on Molten Salt-Trough Tech Research

The Institute of Solar Research of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Portuguese University of Évora have agreed to cooperate in their research in the field of concentrating solar technologies for the generation of electricity.

First common undertaking: the set-up of the Évora Molten Salt Platform (EMSP) in Portugal

At this site in Herdade da Mitra/Évora, major components like storage tanks and steam generator have already been put in place during an earlier project. In co-operation with a group of German industries, these shall be complemented with an advanced, 500m parabolic trough loop. The facility is designed for a capacity of 1,8 MWth and is scheduled to become operational in summer 2016.


Preparation of the solar field site. In the rear to the right: steam generator salt tanks already in place.
zum BildPreparation of the solar field site. In the rear to the right: steam generator salt tanks already in place.

Whilst state-of-the-art parabolic trough power plants with thermal oil as heat transfer medium are limited to operating temperatures below 400°C, molten salt will enable significantly higher temperatures leading to improved power block efficiency and increased storage capacity within the same volume. Cost efficient storage is a key feature to provide dispatchable electricity – a unique selling point for concentrating solar power plants.

The high melting point of the salt presents some challenges, particularly regarding freeze protection, filling and draining of the system, and emergency procedures. The new facility will enable the research partners to demonstrate solutions to these challenges, as well as performance and operation and maintenance aspects of system and components.
The EMSP shall play a key role in the further development of molten salt technology, providing a versatile platform for partners from academia and industry to develop and demonstrate innovative processes and components in a real life environment.

The University of Évora provides the infrastructure and will be the owner of the plant; DLR’s Institute of Solar Research is responsible for the system design and construction of this flagship project. A steering committee will manage the envisaged joint actitvities. During the coming years the two partners want to join forces in further projects to help bridging the gap between innovative technology development and commercial application.

Concentrating solar power (CSP) and parabolic trough technology

Concentrating solar power (CSP) stands for the generation of electricity by means of solar thermal power stations. In such CSP plants specific concentrating collectors are used to concentrate solar radiation to produce heat for the generation of electricity. Commercial plants use various technologies to concentrate the solar radiation, e.g. solar tower technology, linear fresnel or parabolic trough technology.

In parabolic trough plants the mirrors of the collectors concentrate the solar radiation onto a receiver tube which is an integral part of each collector. Within the receiver tubes circulates a fluid which transfers the heat to the next processing unit of the plant. The collectors are installed in rows on a north-south axis, following the course of the sun.


The main parts of a parabolic trough collector are the reflecting mirrors and the receiver tube, in which circulates a heat carrier. Shown here is a test installation at the Plataforma Solar de Almería. Picture: DLR

The DLR Institute of Solar Research is one of the leading research institutions worldwide in the area of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) for the generation of heat, electricity and fuel. The Institute’s 150 workplaces are spread across three DLR sites in Germany and the Plataforma Solar de Almería, Europe’s largest test facility for concentrating solar technology owned and operated by DLR’s Spanish research partner CIEMAT. DLR’s solar furnace in Cologne and the solar thermal experimental power station in Juelich are the largest installations of their kind in Germany. The Institute’s mission is to carry innovations from basic research into application by co-operation with academia and industry.

The University of Évora’s Renewable Energies Chair with its Chairman Prof. Dr. Manuel Collares Pereira is mainly dedicated to research in the field of solar Energy Concentration. The work being carried outs cover the fundamental aspects associated with the optics of solar concentrators, their testing in various applications, e.g. solar electricity production, process heat for industry and desalination, and energy storage. The University offers the only engineering License in renewable energies in Portugal, as well as a Master’s degree in engineering for solar energy. The Chair is also responsible for offering orientation and degrees up to the Ph.D level.

Source: DLR

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