Advanced parabolic trough solar radiation collector technology.

Cleveland, Ohio, and Berkeley, California [WorldofRenewables.com]

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Solar Trust of America, LLC, an integrated industrial solar solutions company, today announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Solar Millennium, LLC, has begun testing the advanced parabolic trough solar radiation collector technology called HelioTrough at an existing solar power plant in the southwestern United States. The testing is designed to assess performance efficiency under commercial operating conditions before being deployed at proposed solar thermal energy power plants throughout the world.

Developed by The Solar Millennium Group’s technology subsidiary, Flagsol GmbH, and its partners, the HelioTrough demonstration “loop” consists of two rows of collectors with a total length of 800 meters and was installed between September and November 2009. Flagsol also developed the previous generation of solar radiation collectors called Skal-ET, which was also developed by the Solar Millennium Group and is in operation at the Andasol solar thermal power plants in Spain and at the hybrid solar field power plant in Kuraymat, Egypt, which is currently under construction.

Uwe T. Schmidt, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Solar Trust of America, said the next-generation solar collector technology represents a breakthrough in design, engineering and performance. “HelioTrough is designed to be the most highly efficient and cost-effective parabolic trough solar collector available. We expect this technology to represent a breakthrough for solar thermal power plants and to further expand our leadership in the market.”

Before being installed at the operating power plant for testing, the new HelioTrough technology was first deployed in a German factory to test the innovative design and assembly concepts and verify the geometric precision of the collectors. The early phases of the research and development for the HelioTrough were supported by the German Federal Environment Ministry. The set up, testing and operation of the HelioTrough collectors at the commercial operating plant in the southwestern United States are supported by a financial award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Dr. Henner Gladen, Chief Technology Officer of Solar Millennium AG, is optimistic that the new HelioTrough collector technology will be a success. “Although final reports on the HelioTrough
collectors’ efficiency can only be made once the performance measurements are completed, preliminary results indicate that the HelioTrough technology may represent a significant step forward in collector technology,” said Dr. Gladen. “We are one step closer to our goal of making solar thermal technology as cost-effective as fossil-fuel power plants.”

One of the objectives for developing the new HelioTrough collector technology was to simplify its design as much as possible to decrease construction costs, while concurrently increasing its precision to maximize its efficiency. The large HelioTrough collectors are constructed in an entirely new geometry. Its simplified design makes it less expensive to build and install and is significantly more efficient than earlier collector designs. Both the mirrors and the absorber pipes of the HelioTrough collectors are larger than current systems and provide for economies of scale and additional savings.
Solar Trust of America and Solar Millennium, LLC currently has multiple solar thermal power plants in advanced stages of permitting and development in California that will utilize the HelioTrough technology. These proposed solar thermal plants are to be located near Ridgecrest, Palen and Blythe, California, and represent approximately 1750 megawatts of electricity generation capacity. The company also has solar power plants in early stages of development in Nevada.

These proposed plants were recently granted “Fast Track” status by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and are currently under regulatory review by BLM and the California Energy Commission (CEC).

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