Advanced Alcoa Design and Technology to Lower Cost to Generate
Energy from the Sun
PITTSBURGH–Alcoa (NYSE:AA) announced today that it is jointly testing an advanced
solar technology with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable
Energy Lab (NREL), with the goal of making Concentrating Solar Power
(CSP) technology competitive in the United States by lowering its cost
to generate energy.
NREL and Alcoa recently installed a new Alcoa-designed Concentrating
Solar Power parabolic trough at NREL’s test facility in Golden, Colo.,
USA. The series of tests will measure the 20-foot by 46-foot collector’s
efficiency to generate energy and evaluate its structural performance.
This round of validation at NREL follows successful tests at Alcoa
Technical Center outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., USA.
“NREL is looking forward to performing outdoor efficiency tests on the
innovative new parabolic trough collector developed by Alcoa,” said Dr.
Chuck Kutscher, Manager, NREL Thermal Systems Group. “We are excited to
see a major U.S.-based manufacturer entering the Concentrating Solar
Power market through the financial support of the U.S. Department of
Energy’s Funding Opportunity Announcement Program.”
Currently, commercial Concentrating Solar Power systems installed to
date use glass mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto
receivers that collect the solar energy and convert it to heat. This
thermal energy can then be used to produce utility scale electricity via
a steam turbine.
Instead of glass mirrors, the new Alcoa solution uses highly-reflective
aluminum mirrors, which are more durable and environmentally-friendly
than fragile glass-based mirrors. The Alcoa design solution enables
high-volume manufacturing techniques to lower installation costs, plus
its monolithic structure enables a simple “drop-in-place” collector for
easy installation. The Alcoa design includes sheet, extrusions and
The new Alcoa CSP design leverages high volume manufacturing and
assembly approaches utilized in the aerospace and automotive markets as
well as the Company’s materials and technology leadership to lower the
cost of CSP trough systems.
“We understand the end-customers’ need to lower the capital investment
in these systems in order to lower the cost of energy,” said Dr. Eric F.
M. Winter, Alcoa’s Director of Development Laboratories. “After
listening to numerous industry experts, our multi-faceted team combined
its materials knowledge with design, manufacturing and engineered
finishes capabilities to develop a system solution that enables
manufacturers to more easily scale up to meet the growing demand for
this solar technology.”
One of the benefits of Concentrating Solar Power technology is that
thermal energy can be stored and drawn upon during short periods of
clouds and at night. Therefore, the technology provides better grid
stability and increased capacity factors compared to photovoltaic
The project is being partially funded by a US$2.1 million DOE grant.
Test results are expected by the second quarter of 2010, after which the
system will enter its next level of large-scale testing.
“We are proud to partner with the Department of Energy to develop a new,
clean, reliable and affordable source of electricity,” said Scott Kerns,
Vice President and General Manager of Alcoa Transportation Products.
“Alcoa has a long history of developing sustainable solutions for its
customers, and aluminum – which can be infinitely recycled – is a
natural fit for this green energy solution.”
Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated
aluminum and alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum
industry, Alcoa innovation has been behind major milestones in the
aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial
transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the
past 120 years. Among the solutions Alcoa markets are flat-rolled
products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, as well as Alcoa® wheels,
fastening systems, precision and investment castings, and building
systems in addition to its expertise in other light metals such as
titanium and nickel-based super alloys. Sustainability is an integral
part of Alcoa’s operating practices and the product design and
engineering it provides to customers. Alcoa has been a member of the Dow
Jones Sustainability Index for eight consecutive years and approximately
75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in
active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 59,000 people in 31
countries across the world. More information can be found at www.alcoa.com.