Solar Program News: May 2016

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Latest Sandia Solar Programs News & Research


The Sandia Solar Programs e-newsletter features highlights, key activities, events, and publications. News is also available on Sandia’s Energy and Climate website. We welcome your feedback. Please e-mail comments and suggestions to We hope you enjoy this valuable resource!


Sandia Labs and EPRI Hosted the 2016 PV Systems Symposium  

PV Symposium audience

Hosted by the Electric Power Reserach Institute (EPRI) and Sandia National Laboratories, this 3-day event in Santa Clara, CA, drew over 200 participants to learn about and discuss relevant issues surrounding PV performance, reliability, and grid integration. The first day was devoted to the 5th PV Performance Modeling Workshop, covering several topics including solar resource characterization, model improvements, modeling tool updates, and monitoring applications.  Two parallel events ran on Day 2: the PV Grid Integration Workshop considered how best to manage increasing numbers of PV systems on the distribution grid, while a side meeting was held for users of the PVLIB modeling libraries.  The PV Lifecycle Workshop was held on Day 3.  All events were well attended by a diverse group of participants, including several who traveled from Asia and Europe to attend. The conversation continues at the PV Performance Modeling Collaborative site. Sandia and EPRI intend to host another symposium next year. Contact: Josh Stein

Research Updates

Sandia Labs Presents Grid Integration Research at IEEE 


Sandia photovoltaics researchers Robert Broderick and Matthew Reno presented their grid integration research at the IEEE PES T&D Conference & Exposition in early May in Dallas, TX. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers convenes the Power Energy Society to address big ideas shaping innovation in energy transmission and distribution (T&D), and provide opportunities for researchers to interact with utilities that display the latest power systems equipment and solutions. See the Broderick, et al., and Peppanen, et al., publications listed under Recent Publications, below. Contact: Robert Broderick and Matthew Reno

High-Temperature Falling Particle Receiver Reaches New Limits

At its National Solar Thermal Test Facility, Sandia National Laboratories recently completed a 3½-year project funded by DOE’s SunShot Initiative to develop a high-temperature falling particle receiver, in which sand-like ceramic particles are heated as they fall through a beam of highly concentrated sunlight focused by an array of mirrors.  The falling-particle receiver enables concentrated solar power with thermal storage for on-demand electricity production and process heat at significantly higher temperatures (up to 1000 °C and higher), which can increase power cycle efficiencies and reduce levelized costs.  Sandia constructed and successfully demonstrated the world’s first continuously recirculating high-temperature 1 MWt falling particle receiver, achieving peak particle temperatures over 900°C and bulk temperatures over 800°C.  The particle heating rate reached 100–300°C per meter of illuminated drop distance at concentrated solar irradiances of ~1,000 kW/m2 and thermal conversion efficiencies of ~80%.  The particle receiver is being considered for next-generation solarized supercritical CO2 Brayton cycles.  A new project through the SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (FY16–FY18) was awarded to Sandia to develop a particle/sCO2 heat exchanger for this concept. Contact: Cliff Ho

Solar tower during FPR test
Illuminated falling particle receiver on top of tower at Sandia Labs
falling particle receiver _ 0587
Particle flow over staggered array of chevron mesh structures to reduce velocities

Sandia National Laboratories Experts Co-Author DOE Reports on Grid Integration and Concentrating Solar Power

SunShot hero

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released On the Path to SunShot, a series of eight reports that takes stock of progress made halfway into the ten-year SunShot Initiative and highlights remaining opportunities for and barriers to achieving cost reductions by 2020. DOE originally launched the SunShot Initiative in 2011 to drive down the cost of solar energy with aggressive research and development. Sandia Labs contributed significantly to two of these new reports:

Emerging Issues and Challenges with Integrating High Levels of Solar into the Distribution System

From 2010 through the first half of 2015, the installed capacity of solar photovoltaics (PV) connected to the U.S. distribution system increased six fold, from approximately 1.8 GW to more than 11 GW. The rapid deployment of high penetrations of PV into the distribution system has both highlighted challenges and demonstrated many successful examples of integrating higher penetration levels than previously thought possible.  For example, one analysis suggests that widespread use of advanced inverters and voltage management solutions could double the electricity-distribution system’s hosting capacity for distributed PV at low costs. Researchers analyzed challenges and identified solutions and research needs to achieve much higher levels of solar integration to achieve DOE’s SunShot targets. Contacts: Matthew Reno, Matthew Lave, and Robert Broderick

Advancing Concentrating Solar Power Technology, Performance, and Dispatchability

The ability of concentrating solar power (CSP) to generate and store thermal energy when net demand is low and release that energy when demand is high—even when the sun is not shining—increases the electricity system’s ability to balance supply and demand over multiple time scales.  Such flexibility becomes increasingly important as more variable-generation renewable energy is added to the system. For example, one analysis suggests that, under a 40% renewable portfolio standard in California, CSP with storage could provide more than twice as much value to the electricity system as variable-generation PV.  Sandia researchers contributed analyses and defined technology improvement opportunities in the CSP report that can increase the performance and efficiency of components that will reduce the levelized costs of CSP. Contacts: Cliff Ho and Ken Armijo

Recent Publications

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