News Release: International Heliostat Consortium Releases Roadmap and Solicitation To Improve Commercial Viability of Heliostats

Sept. 27, 2022 | Contact media relations

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), joined by partners at Sandia National Laboratories and the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute, released its multiyear heliostat roadmap, which identifies research and deployment gaps in heliostat technologies as well as the strategies to overcome them during the next five years.

A logo of an orange sun, blue squares, and stylized letter "i" next to text that reads "U.S. Department of Energy, HelioCon, Heliostat Consortium for Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power

The Heliostat Consortium (HelioCon), led by NREL, emphasizes the significance of heliostats as a key component of concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technologies. Titled Advancing Heliostat Technologies for Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power: Heliostat Consortium (HelioCon) Roadmap, the report is aimed to remove commercial risks and improve economic competitiveness to attract investors to heliostat-based CSP systems. The approaches discussed support activities that will help achieve the goals of the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). For heliostat costs, SETO has a target cost of $50 per square meter to reach its goal of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity and 0.8 cents per kilowatt-hour for high-temperature heat in next-generation CSP plants, which incorporate thermal energy storage.

“We are fortunate to have dozens of industry experts, research experts, and advisors contribute to this roadmap,” said Guangdong Zhu, HelioCon executive director and NREL senior researcher. “Our collaborative efforts will ensure that we can leverage heliostat-based CSP systems to provide low-cost, dispatchable thermal and electrical energy.”

Heliostat-based CSP systems can offer immense potential to help achieve 100% decarbonized energy infrastructure in the United States. The roadmap report has six technical topics:

  • Metrology and standards
  • Components and controls
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Resources, training, and education (RTE)
  • Field deployment
  • Techno-economic analysis (TEA).

“Our topic-area leaders held multiple discussions with industry experts and experienced stakeholders to understand the biggest challenges in each area,” said Margaret Gordon, HelioCon leadership team member and manager of the National Solar Thermal Test Facility at Sandia. “We then used those identified challenges to determine what research, development and capability investments would be most impactful to the heliostat industry.”

In conjunction with the roadmap, NREL has launched a request for proposals (RFP) to achieve DOE’s goals for cost reduction, sustained multifaceted innovation, and HelioCon goals. Projects supported by this solicitation will focus on lowering the cost of heliostats and heliostat technologies and creating new market opportunities for the heliostat industry, with the goal of enabling widespread deployment of concentrating solar to decarbonize the electricity grid and energy systems.

The RFP also aims to broaden the Heliostat R&D community. HelioCon is interested in proposals supported by diversity in experience and perspectives and encourages applications from members of groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering and science.

The Heliostat Consortium, called HelioCon, was established in 2021 to integrate all types of stakeholder input to address these challenges. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Office, HelioCon is led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. The U.S. national laboratories are partnering with the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI) and are closely working with developers, utilities, and other experts.

HelioCon is funded by SETO. Learn more about the office’s CSP and heliostat research.

Visit the NREL CSP and the Sandia CSP websites to learn more about other research projects.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.