Leading European research institutes in concentrating solar systems joined forces to create a virtual European laboratory, offering researchers and industry access to some of the best research and test infrastructures in Europe.
The EU has set itself the challenge of tripling its renewable energy production by 2020. Concentrating solar thermal (CST) technologies can make a significant contribution to achieving this target In particular, the countries surrounding the Mediterranean will benefit from exploiting solar resources. Its most common application is bulk electricity generation through thermodynamic cycles. These systems are called Solar Thermal Electricity (STE) plants. Other uses include hydrogen production, water decontamination and disinfection, desalination and research into advanced materials.
The EU-funded SFERA (Solar facilities for the European Research Area) project reinforced Europe's leading role in CST technologies by establishing new partnerships amongst leading research centres in diverse countries. The development of this reference European solar laboratory contributes to encourage sustainable energy supply, also securing the competitiveness of European technology suppliers in the CST field worldwide.
A major benefit of SFERA is that researchers have access to state-of-the-art high-flux and solar research facilities not found anywhere else in the world for developing new scientific and technological challenges. These include horizontal and vertical solar furnaces, solar water decontamination, disinfection and solar desalination facilities.
Over the course of the project, partners developed measurement systems for sunshape analysis that are already commercially available. Given that the sunshape strongly varies with time and climate, many sites can benefit from these tools, creating a bigger database of circumsolar radiation measurements.
Based on the exemplary results for the investigated STE plants, the impact of circumsolar radiation on the plant yield in hazy regions can be roughly estimated. The raw data from the SFERA systems are available online and can also be used for other solar energy applications or atmospheric science applications. Thanks to the SPRAY software, the correct time-series processing of circumsolar radiation data is now possible.
Another outcome of the project is the development of a scientifically sound methodology to test and to evaluate different types of thermal energy storage systems and materials which is of great importance for improving the competitiveness of STE plants.
Project partners created a cooperation framework. This was aimed at facilitating resource sharing, helping to develop common standards and procedures, preventing duplication of research and supporting the building of advanced instrumentation for CST research infrastructures. The consortium also organised training courses for young researchers, whose training materials are available online, and encouraged interaction with members from European research, education and industry communities.
SFERA increased awareness of potential applications of CST technologies, establishing also new synergies with other scientific disciplines. Dissemination activities included conferences, exhibitions, newsletters, brochures and the project website.
Provided by Cordis