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Mike Wagner

Researcher V NEX-Mechanical Engineering

Orcid ID

Mike joined the Thermal Sciences Group at NREL in 2009. His work at NREL includes thermal systems modeling, system design and operations optimization, and predictive performance analysis of concentrating solar and power generation systems. Mike has developed several performance models for NREL's System Advisor Model software, including modeling tools for Linear Fresnel, power tower, and parabolic trough technologies. He is also the developer of a power tower layout and optimization tool called SolarPILOT that combines analytical and stochastic methods to define and optically characterize power tower solar fields.

Mike has served as principal investigator on projects including developing tools for algorithmic optimization of plant design, operations, and maintenance policies, design and characterization of a high-temperature, gas-phase solar receiver for supercritical carbon dioxide applications, and others. He provides expertise in time series analysis of transient and coupled systems, optical and thermal system characterization, computational fluid dynamics, nonlinear and mixed-integer programming, and engineering software development.

Before joining NREL, Mike worked as a graduate research assistant at University of Wisconsin at Madison Solar Energy Lab, where he developed an optimization/design tool and detailed transient system component models for power tower technology.

Mike is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the Rath Award for best thesis with greatest potential for societal impact from Colorado School of Mines.

Research Interests

Real-time operations optimization software

Gen3 gas phase system development and demonstration

Concurrent optimization of capital cost and expected operations and maintenance costs

Direct high-temperature sCO2 receivers

SolarPILOT software development

System Advisor Model—CSP development


Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin at Madison

B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Featured Work

Dispatch optimization of concentrating solar power with utility-scale photovoltaics, Optimization and Engineering (2019)

SolarPILOT: A power tower solar field layout and characterization tool, Solar Energy (2018)

System Advisor Model (SAM) General Description, NREL Technical Report (2018)

Optimized dispatch in a first-principles concentrating solar power production model, Applied Energy (2017)

Concentrating Solar Power Gen3 Demonstration Roadmap, NREL Technical Report (2017)

Thermodynamic Study of Advanced Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Power Cycles for Concentrating Solar Power Systems, Journal of Solar Energy Engineering (2013)

View all NREL publications for Mike Wagner