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22. March 2010

Alcoa tests aluminum based solar power system

Reuters reported that Alcoa Inc is testing solar technology that uses aluminum instead of glass mirrors to generate electricity by concentrating sunlight.

The aluminum producer is working jointly with the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab with the goal of making concentrating solar power technology competitive in the United States by lowering its cost to generate energy.

NREL and Alcoa recently installed an Alcoa designed Concentrating Solar Power parabolic trough at NREL's test facility in Golden, Colorado. Tests will measure the 20 foot by 46 foot collector's efficiency to generate energy and evaluate its structural performance.

Currently, commercial concentrating solar power systems use glass mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat. Instead of glass, the new Alcoa system uses highly-reflective aluminum mirrors which are more durable and environmentally friendly.

Most solar energy systems use photovoltaic technology, in which sunlight is turned into electricity by solar panels, but CSP or thermal solar technology, is expected to get a boost with several installations slated to be built in coming years.

The Alcoa project is being partially funded by USD 2.1 million DOE grant. Test results are expected by the Q2 2010 after which the system will enter the next level of large scale testing.

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