A low-cost rigid foam-based concentrator technology development program was funded by the DOE SunShot Initiative to meet installed cost goals of $75/m2 vs. current costs of $200–250/m2. The cost reduction in this approach focuses primarily on designing a mirror module with a rigid foam center with stainless steel facesheets and reflective film. The low mechanical strength of the foam is compensated by optimizing the densities and dimensions to meet pointing accuracy requirements of 4 milliradians (mrad) in 27mph winds. Two alpha concentrators were built to validate the mirror module manufacturing process and one of them was accurate to 0.15 mrad RMS vs. the design requirement of 1 mrad RMS. To understand the lifetime reliability of the panels, fifteen 4-inch square samples were exposed to various environmental conditions including acid rain, bird droppings, thermal cycling, and the final results indicated no loss in reflectivity of 95%. UV testing will be performed in the next phase. Three mechanical structure options covering the range of large multi-faceted heliostats with diagonal load carrying elements, small single facet heliostats low to the ground and optimized truss-based deep structure designs were analyzed with FEA and analytically; results indicated a significant cost benefit (>2×) for the truss-based design over the other options. Other elements such as the controls, actuators were also considered in th analysis with vendor data. Cost trades were performed for heliostats ranging from 10m2 to 250m2. The results indicated a broad installed cost minimum around $113/m2 for heliostat sizes ranging from 80 m2 to 130 m2. Additional cost saving approaches will be considered in Phase 2 of the project.

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