Headline: Concentrating solar technology policy should encourage high temperatures and modularity to enable spillovers

Thermal energy from concentrating solar thermal technologies (CST) may contribute to decarbonizing applications from heating and cooling, desalination, and power generation to commodities such as aluminium, hydrogen, ammonia or sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). So far, successful commercial-scale CST projects are restricted to solar industrial process heat (SIPH) and concentrating solar power (CSP) generation and, at least for the latter, depend on support from public policies that have been stagnating for years. As they are technologically similar, spillovers between SIPH or CSP and other emerging CST could accelerate commercialization across use cases while maximizing the impact of scarce support. Here, we review the technical potential for cross-fertilization between different CST applications and the ability of the current policy regime to enable this potential. Using working temperature as the key variable, we identify different clusters of current and emerging CST technologies. Low-temperature CST ([removed]600℃) for solar chemistry and high-grade process heat has significant leverage for spillovers with point-focussing solar tower third-generation CSP currently under development. For these spillovers to happen, however, CSP policy designs would need to prioritize innovation for high working temperature and encourage modular plant design, by adequately remunerating hybridized plants with heat and power in and outputs that include energy sources beyond CST solar fields. This would enable synergies across applications and scales by incentivizing compatibility of modular CST components in multiple sectors and use cases.

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Academic Articles

Thonig, R., & Lilliestam, J. (2023). Concentrating solar technology policy should encourage high temperatures and modularity to enable spillovers. AIP conference proceedings, 2815(1): 050005. doi:10.1063/5.0149423.

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Solar Thermal Power Plants: Generating transformation knowledge with open data (Open CSP)