Solar tower and solar field
© DLR-Institut für Solarforschung
Solar thermal power plants require intensive solar irradiation, which is why there are only test plants in Germany.

Solar thermal power plants

In future, more and more solar thermal power plants will be used in regions with strong direct solar irradiation, such as southern Europe or North Africa. By integrating thermal storage tanks into these plants, the power plants can stabilise the grid if required and provide cost-effective electrical energy. However, they must be flexible in their application. This requires new operating systems and optimised components and methods.

The aim is to develop innovative collector concepts with precise and cost-effective drivetrains, higher reflectivity and improved field layout. Thermal storage concepts should have better charging and discharging dynamics, an extended temperature range and greater storage efficiency. The aim of all research work is to significantly reduce the electricity generation costs of solar power plants.

© DLR, CC-BY 3.0

Parabolic trough plants concentrate the sun's rays on a trough in which a liquid medium circulates.

© DLR, CC-BY 3.0

Solar tower power plants concentrate the sun's rays of the heliostat array on a receiver on the tower.

Uniform measurement methods for quality comparison

Solar thermal power plants are complex systems consisting of numerous individual components from different manufacturers. To ensure that they reliably deliver the expected yields, component and subsystem properties must be defined and measurement procedures need to be developed and standardised. Only when such standards exist can the quality of competing products be compared. This increases the transparency and reliability of the systems. Greater competitive pressure helps to reduce component and subsystem costs as well as planning effort.

Network of solar thermal power plants and other renewable energy plants

In order to optimise German export opportunities, integration concepts for solar thermal power plants and thermal storage systems in combination with other renewable energy sources are to be developed. The research focuses on developing cross-technology concepts and pilot projects to investigate and optimise the interaction of different renewable energy technologies with power and thermal storage systems.

Digital technologies for cost reduction

In the future, innovative digital technologies should contribute even more than before to reducing electricity generation costs. In this way, IT-based integral methods can optimise many processes in the construction and operation phase. Furthermore, the use of digital production methods should significantly reduce the cost of heliostats, collectors or receivers.