The U.S. Department of Energy announced detailed plans July 15 to distribute up to $52.5 million to fund projects to research, develop, and demonstrate Concentrating Solar Power systems under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[1] The Department of Energy will distribute up to $10.8 million for baseload Concentrating Solar Power system studies, and up to $4.5 million for R&D concept and component feasibility studies.  

These investments will focus on Concentrating Solar Power (“CSP”) systems that include significant energy storage and are therefore capable of providing low-cost electrical power both day and night. CSP technologies, currently used in utility-scale power plants, typically do not have significant energy storage capabilities, and therefore operate only during daytime hours. This American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“Stimulus Package Act”) funding is aimed at improving technology and novel system designs to extend operation to an average of about 18 hours per day, a level of production that would make it possible for a CSP plant to displace a traditional coal power plant.  

The long-term goal of this funding is to develop and demonstrate low-cost CSP systems that are capable of large-scale penetration into the utility electricity grid by providing high-capacity-factor electrical power generation. These investments also are intended to create new green jobs, and accelerate the market competitiveness of advanced solar technologies, helping to position the U.S. as a leader in this sector.  

On July 20, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (“FOA”), soliciting applicants to apply for grants under this CSP program. The FOA calls for applicants to apply for funding under one of two Topic Areas: (1) R&D Concept and Component Feasibility Studies, and (2) Baseload CSP System Study. Projects under both Topic Areas will be conducted in three phases. At the end of each phase, a go/no-go decision will be made to determine whether a project meets DOE’s review criteria and will continue to the next phase. The DOE will accept grant applications through October 15, 2009.

Summary of CSP Investments  

The DOE plans to invest the $52.5 million for CSP projects as follows: see table

Investments in R&D Concept and Component Feasibility Studies will fund the research and development of concepts and components for a CSP system that enables a plant to produce low-cost electricity for at least 18 hours per day. Applicants must show promise for substantially reducing the cost of baseload CSP power. Projects funded under this Topic Area will be more exploratory in nature than projects funded under Topic Area 2.  

Investments in Baseload CSP System Study will fund evaluation of the feasibility and development of a prototype complete CSP system capable of operating at least 18 hours per day while generating low-cost power. Applicants must also identify potential engineering partners and developers with whom they can form a team for subsequent design or component and system demonstrations.  

All projects will be conducted in three phases. At the end of each phase, a go/no-go decision will be made to determine whether a project meets DOE’s review criteria and will continue to the next phase:  

Phase I: system feasibility study and preliminary design work;

Phase II: preliminary engineering design; and

Phase III: detailed engineering design and final prototype testing and evaluation.

The DOE’s anticipated period of performance for each project phase is as follows, with each go/no-go decision period expected to span approximately two months in duration: see table

The maximum funding the DOE plans to invest in an individual award made under each phase of a project is as follows (in millions): see table

A total of approximately $15 million is expected to be available for new awards in 2010 and an additional $19.5 to $37.5 million is expected to be available for awards made under this announcement in 2011 through 2014.  

The DOE will require a minimum cost share of 20 percent for Phase I and Phase II funding, and a minimum 50 percent cost share for Phase III funding.

Additional details regarding the implementation of CSP funding in the Stimulus Package Act will be forthcoming in future guidance to be posted by the DOE to www.recovery.gov and www.energy.gov/recovery.  

Capitalizing on CSP funding in the Stimulus Package Act can create critical opportunities for your company