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Solar for Industrial Process Heat Analysis

NREL is developing the first national analysis of the potential for solar technologies to power a wide array of manufacturing applications.

Industrial Process Heat Factory Icon

As part of the multiyear Solar for Industrial Process Heat (IPH) project, researchers are evaluating the potential of photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, and hybrid approaches that produce electricity and/or heat to power a broad range of manufacturing IPH end uses. This analysis will explicitly account for load-reduction potential from energy efficiency measures and load-balancing potential from energy storage technologies.

By developing data sets, tools, and analyses on the integration of solar and manufacturing IPH at both the process and country levels, NREL will enable strategic decision making around this largely unexplored opportunity for solar energy expansion.

Disrupting Business-as-Usual

In the United States, manufacturing IPH is currently dominated by natural gas and coal combustion, a trend that has remained relatively unchanged for several decades.

In fact, fossil fuels provided 90% of reported manufacturing process heat energy in 2014 and 92% in 1992.

Industrial process heat is a significant energy draw in the United States, constituting 7% of all U.S. primary energy use, which amounts to approximately 20% of all residential- and commercial-sector energy use combined.

As low-cost solar technologies continue to evolve and emerge, NREL aggregates and advances data and performs analysis around how renewable sources might supply the heat that industry needs to do business, now and in the years ahead.

Related Publications and Resources

Using facility-level emissions data to estimate the technical potential of alternative thermal sources to meet industrial heat demand, Applied Energy (2019)

The Industry Energy Tool (IET): Documentation, NREL Technical Report (2019)

Generation and Use of Thermal Energy in the U.S. Industrial Sector and Opportunities to Reduce Its Carbon Emissions, NREL Technical Report (2016)

Initial Investigation into the Potential of CSP Industrial Process Heat for the Southwest United States, NREL Technical Report (2015)

Solar Process Heat Basics on

Solar Industrial Process Heat in the News

Industry’s Hunger for Heat Drives Energy Demand, (August 2019)



Colin McMillan

Co-Principal Investigator | 202-488-2251


Robert Margolis

Co-Principal Investigator | 202-488-2222