Sandia National Laboratories building centers across country to help solar firms test hardware

Dec 27, 2012 by Eileen Aj Connelly

One of the National Security Administration's three national laboratories is building regional testing centers around the country to field-test hardware for solar companies before their multimillion-dollar solar systems are installed in buildings.

The Sandia National Laboratory is building test centers in Albuquerque, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., and Burlington, Vt., the Albuquerque Journal reported.

"The centers are designed to not only provide independent assessments of commercial systems, but to do that in multiple locations and climates," Sandia solar group member Jennifer Granata said.

The test facilities will provide enhanced monitoring and improved performance prediction capabilities for new technologies being introduced to the market and will have detailed and measuring and monitoring equipment such as simulators, performance curve tracers and infrared and digital cameras.

They will help develop standard procedures to assess performance of large-scale systems that other labs, utilities and investors can use.

Select companies will then set up their own systems of between 10 and 300 kilowatts on site.

The companies doing field testing at the centers will be responsible for the costs of their systems, while the government will provide labor and expertise.

The lab also just completed a $17.8 million upgrade to its National Solar Thermal Test Facility in Albuquerque.

While the test centers will focus on solar systems that directly convert sunlight to electricity, the lab's Solar Thermal Test Facility is working to improve systems that use sunlight to heat liquids to generate steam for turbine generators.

That facility was established in 1976 in Albuquerque, but much of it had never been updated until now.

Upgrades included construction of a $10 million Test Loop, and a nearly $4 million overhaul of the facility's "solar tower."

Concentrating are increasingly using molten salt to retain heat from the sun because it's cheap and abundant, and it stores thermal energy for long periods, allowing the systems to generate steam for turbines well after the sun goes down. But energy developers need a better understanding of how pressure, high temperature and flow rates interact and impact a system's overall operation.

The Molten Salt Test Loop is now the only test facility in the nation that can provide real power-plant conditions and collect data to help companies make commercial decisions about such systems, Sandia researcher Cheryl Ghanbari said.

Sandia National Laboratories' has a main campus on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and another in Livermore, Calif., near the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The research and development facilities work on a variety of federal science projects and are operated under government contract by Sandia Corp., a subsidiary of defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. Sandia's objectives include ensuring the security of the nation's nuclear stockpile and addressing threats to national security.

Explore further: Website shines light on renewable energy resources

3.7 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Molten salts for efficient solar thermal plants

Mar 08, 2011

Researchers from Siemens intend to substantially boost the efficiency of solar thermal power plants and thus reduce the costs of this climate-neutral method of power generation. They intend to use mixtures ...

Solar power generation around the clock

Nov 05, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A Californian company, SolarReserve, is developing a solar power system that can store seven hours' worth of solar energy by focusing mirrors onto millions of gallons of molten salt, allowing ...

Recommended for you

Website shines light on renewable energy resources

1 hour ago

A team from the University of Arizona and eight southwestern electric utility companies have built a pioneering web portal that provides insight into renewable energy sources and how they contribute to the ...

Better software cuts computer energy use

1 hour ago

An EU research project is developing tools to help software engineers create energy-efficient code, which could reduce electricity consumption at data centres by up to 50% and improve battery life in smart ...

Cook farm waste into energy

22 hours ago

It takes some cooking, but turning farm waste into biofuels is now possible and makes economic sense, according to preliminary research from the University of Guelph.

Developing a reliable wind 'super grid' for Europe

Dec 17, 2014

EU researchers are involved in the development of a pan-European 'super grid' capable of dispersing wind power across Member States. This will bring more renewable energy into homes and businesses, help reduce ...

Boeing 737 factory to move to clean energy

Dec 16, 2014

Boeing said Tuesday it plans to buy renewable energy credits to replace fossil-fuel power at the factory in Washington state where it assembles its 737 commercial airplanes.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.