Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Solar collectors become more cost effective

Capturing the Sun's energy now costs less thanks to new lightweight solar collectors developed by EU-funded scientists. A reduction in weight means less energy is required for moving and positioning solar collectors, thereby making concentrated solar power (CSP) a more cost-effective proposition.
Solar collectors become more cost effective
Solar power is an important source of renewable energy that can help alleviate the negative impacts associated with the burning of fossil fuels, such as the production of carbon dioxide and particulates. Through the use of mirrors, CSP focuses the Sun's rays to produce heat for generating electricity through a turbine or heat engine. Although the technology is not in its infancy, there is still much room for improvement.

The COMPOSOL (Fibre reinforced composite reflectors for concentrated solar power plants) project enhanced CSP design by employing novel materials to reduce weight and increase durability. The use of carbon composite materials for the solar collector eliminates the need for metal parts, which are subject to corrosion, with no penalty on overall stiffness.

A modular design was used, enabling the whole structure to be broken up into smaller components that are easier to manufacture, repair and replace. The project team also developed dedicated configuration management software allowing full traceability of each individual panel and each assembly. They achieved the reflective surface through physical vapour deposition of silver onto an intermediate structure of polymer or glass bonded to the composite.

Furthermore, the composites can be tailored to ensure a reduced change in dimensions due to a high temperature gradient (i.e. they have a low coefficient of thermal expansion). This makes them particularly suitable to arid climates and areas that experience large temperature variations over 24 hours. Their light weight in comparison to metal components facilitates transportation and installation.

COMPOSOL has delivered a novel CSP concept with reduced weight and increased durability. Taken together, the results will significantly reduce transportation and operating costs – the latter largely through less maintenance and lower energy consumption. The cost-effective CSP concept will therefore promote the technology's uptake, providing major benefits for manufacturers, consumers and the environment.

Related information


Solar collectors, concentrated solar power, renewable energy, turbine, heat engine, physical vapour deposition
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