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Parabolic Trough Solar Field Technology

Photo of a parabolic trough.

The sun bursts over a parabolic trough at Kramer Junction in Boron, California.
Credit: Sandia National Laboratories Photo Database

NREL works to develop less costly and more efficient parabolic trough solar field technology. This involves improving the structure of parabolic trough concentrators, receivers, and mirrors, and increasing the manufacturing of these components.

Through NREL's development and testing, the next generation of parabolic trough concentrators is quickly evolving. We're focused on optimizing the structure of the current steel/thick-glass concentrators and increasing the concentrator size. See information on NREL's Optical Testing Laboratory and Beam Characterization System to learn more about our concentrator R&D capabilities.

We're also developing advanced receiver and mirror technologies. Advanced receiver cost reduction focuses on improving the reliability of the glass-to-metal seal and developing a less costly, high-performance selective coating. We expect advanced concentrator designs that use integrated structural reflectors to significantly reduce the cost of the structure and reflectors. For mirrors, cost reduction involves developing and using lightweight, front-surface reflectors—which include surface coatings to reduce soiling—instead of heavy, glass reflectors.

Further cost reduction in solar field technology requires volume production of parabolic trough components and increased competition. NREL's helping to provide U.S. companies with the opportunity to develop parabolic trough components, especially for near-term projects.

Visit TroughNet for an overview of parabolic trough solar field technology.