The Solar Energy area develops activities of Research, Development and Demonstration (R,D&D), technical and technological assistance, standardization and support to public policies within the scope of solar energy harnessing, conversion, storage and utilization. These activities are being developed in two sub-areas of expertise: Solar Thermal Energy and Solar Photovoltaics Energy.
Solar Thermal Energy (ST)
Thermal utilization of solar energy can be achieved through a set of technologies and solutions, some already available in the market for years, which allow covering a wide range of applications with different temperatures.
In the temperature range below 150 ºC some important applications can be mentioned like hot water production, swimming pool heating, heating and cooling, refrigeration, preheating in industrial processes, heating of greenhouses, drying of agricultural products and desalination, among others.
Applications with temperatures above 150ºC require the use of concentrating systems being such concentrating technologies known as Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) or Concentrating Solar Power (CSP). CSP technologies use linear and point focusing optical systems to increase the radiative flux density, enabling the thermal conversion of solar radiation at medium or high temperature. Several CSP technologies are now commercially available, notably parabolic trough systems, linear Fresnel reflector systems, central receiver systems (also known as solar towers) and parabolic dish systems. These technologies allow the production of heat at temperatures appropriate to the thermodynamic cycles conventionally used in thermoelectric production and can be used for the production of Solar Thermal Electricity (STE). The simplicity and the low cost of incorporating thermal energy storage systems in this type of power plants endow them with a high capacity of dispatchability and provision of ancillary services. The ease of hybridization with other energy sources (e.g. bioenergy) and the complementarity with other electricity producing systems, in particular with photovoltaic systems, is also a relevant feature of these technologies.
In addition to the production of electricity, CSP is a technology with significant application potential in the production of thermal energy for industrial processes and for thermochemical applications such as hydrogen and syngas production or even waste treatment and materials processing.
LNEG follows and contributes to the development of solar energy technologies by participating in national and international R,D&D projects and providing services to industry. This activity includes the study of the solar resource, the development, optimization and testing of radiation conversion technologies and thermal energy storages, the study of the integration of solar thermal systems in buildings and processes, as well as the design, modeling and monitoring of solar systems more suitable for these applications.
LNEG participates in several Fora related to Solar Energy Thermal Conversion, namely the Technological Collaborative Program of the International Energy Agency dedicated to Solar Heating and Cooling (SHC) and the Joint Program for CSP of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA JP-CSP), integrating national and international CSP infrastructures, namely the National Research Infrastructure for Concentrating Solar Energy (INIESC) and the European Research Infrastructure for Concentration Solar Energy (EU-SOLARIS). Moreover, it actively participates in standardization activities in the technical commissions CEN TC 312, ISO TC 180 and IEC TC 117, and coordinates the national technical commission – CT 54 – Solar collectors.
LNEG also contributes to the implementation of public policies in this area in terms of the tests for the certification of solar collectors, training of designers and installers of solar thermal systems, and the development of software for designing solar thermal systems.
LNEG’s Solar Energy Laboratory complements the experimental activity developed in the field of Solar Thermal and provides services abroad.
Solar Photovoltaics (PV)
The direct conversion of Solar Energy into Electricity in Photovoltaic systems is today one of the technological areas of greatest development in the field of Renewable Energies. The overall objectives of this development are the increase of efficiency, the reduction of costs (investment and operation and maintenance) and the issues related to the sustainability of the technology.
LNEG follows this development in its different aspects, by participating in national and international R&D projects, as well as in service contracts with the business sector.
LNEG also participates in national and international Fora such as the Technology Collaboration Program PVPS (Photovoltaic Power Systems) of the International Energy Agency ( www.iea-pvps.org ), the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) Joint Programme on Photovoltaics ( www.eera-set.eu/eera-joint-programmes-jps/list-of-jps/photovoltaic-solar-energy/ ) and the Technical Secretariat of the National Commission for Standardization of Photovoltaics CTE 82.
LNEG works also on specialized technical training in this field and supports public policies in this sector, by providing global technology reviews and participating in juries for new PV power plants assignment.
Examples of research projects supported by either national or European programs or with the business sector, are the development of conversion technologies such as thin films technologies based on perovskites and kesterites, or the development of hybrid PV/T modules, the performance evaluation of new technologies, the modeling of both autonomous and distributed systems, in particular in the framework of micro grids, self-consumption, and Prosumers concept, and its grid integration and monitoring of systems and their components, namely for applications in buildings or in the urban environment, such as the photovoltaic systems of the facade and parking lot of Solar XXI Building.