By Hilary Stingley
The aluminum manufacturer Alcoa (AA) has partnered with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to test a new type of solar technology that it believes will lower the cost of renewable energy.
The project is being partially funded by a U.S. $2.1 million Department of Energy (DoE) grant.
Currently, solar troughs use parabola-shaped glass mirrors that are attached to a support structure made of aluminum or steel in order to concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect the solar energy and convert it to heat.
Alcoa has replaced the glass mirrors in parabolic troughs with highly-reflective aluminum ones - integrating the mirror into a single structure in order to create a new CSP parabolic trough system.
All-aluminum parabolic troughs are estimated to reduce the price of a solar field by 20%, due to lower installation costs.
The company plans to use recycled materials to create the solar collectors.
Test results are expected by the second quarter of 2010. The system will then enter its next level of large-scale testing.
Alcoa executives say that the company plans to have its solar trough in commercial production within the next two to three years.
The company's ultimate aim is to make CSP a viable competitor in the United States.
Alcoa is known for developing sustainable solutions for its customers. Let's hope they're right about this one, too.