3
Organization, Technology Transfer, Program Direction, and Institutional Issues

APPLICATIONS OF CONCENTRATED SOLAR PHOTONS

The charge to the committee was to assess potential applications of concentrated solar photons in nonelectric areas. The committee interpreted the term applications to be those of commercial value, that is, applications in which the use of concentrated solar photons leads to (1) a new product or process, creating a new market; (2) cost reduction for an existing product or process; (3) improvement in a product or process; or (4) provision of a technical service (e.g., testing) to industry.

The types of processes discussed in this report represent potential applications of solar energy. However, except for the solar processes that produce gaseous or liquid fuels (as discussed in Chapter 2 under Solar Fuels and Biomass Conversion), it is unlikely that implementation of the different systems discussed in Chapter 2 will make a significant impact on the overall U.S. energy picture.

Program and Personnel Dimensions

The committee finds that there are valid concepts, such as the photoassisted destruction of contaminants in water and air, in which good basic research has been done at the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) and elsewhere. The committee urges that further basic research be performed and considers it a worthwhile investment. Subject to equally high-quality business analysis — including analysis of the industry to be affected, market shares of companies, competing technologies, and definition of cost and performance objectives — some of these concepts could be translated into development or demonstration projects. The latter would then prove that the targeted cost objective can be met and that the product or process does meet the performance and market window requirements leading to a transfer of the technology. Figure 3-1 shows the proposed sequence in the timing of project components.

The potential applications presented to the committee were not supported by a credible market analysis, and only the application in water treatment was supported by a cost analysis. Furthermore, the business and therefore the specific objectives of the development and demonstration



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OCR for page 48
Potential Applications of Concentrated Solar Photons 3 Organization, Technology Transfer, Program Direction, and Institutional Issues APPLICATIONS OF CONCENTRATED SOLAR PHOTONS The charge to the committee was to assess potential applications of concentrated solar photons in nonelectric areas. The committee interpreted the term applications to be those of commercial value, that is, applications in which the use of concentrated solar photons leads to (1) a new product or process, creating a new market; (2) cost reduction for an existing product or process; (3) improvement in a product or process; or (4) provision of a technical service (e.g., testing) to industry. The types of processes discussed in this report represent potential applications of solar energy. However, except for the solar processes that produce gaseous or liquid fuels (as discussed in Chapter 2 under Solar Fuels and Biomass Conversion), it is unlikely that implementation of the different systems discussed in Chapter 2 will make a significant impact on the overall U.S. energy picture. Program and Personnel Dimensions The committee finds that there are valid concepts, such as the photoassisted destruction of contaminants in water and air, in which good basic research has been done at the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) and elsewhere. The committee urges that further basic research be performed and considers it a worthwhile investment. Subject to equally high-quality business analysis — including analysis of the industry to be affected, market shares of companies, competing technologies, and definition of cost and performance objectives — some of these concepts could be translated into development or demonstration projects. The latter would then prove that the targeted cost objective can be met and that the product or process does meet the performance and market window requirements leading to a transfer of the technology. Figure 3-1 shows the proposed sequence in the timing of project components. The potential applications presented to the committee were not supported by a credible market analysis, and only the application in water treatment was supported by a cost analysis. Furthermore, the business and therefore the specific objectives of the development and demonstration

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Potential Applications of Concentrated Solar Photons Figure 3-1 Flow chart for project development. programs were not often defined in the context of specific products or processes. In the absence of such definition, clearly a management responsibility, the engineering staff, though highly competent in their fields, did not appear guided as to where to focus their talent. The critical issues relevant to the success or failure of a given product or process for a particular type of customer need to be defined. Utilization of concentrated solar energy in nonelectric applications differs from the area of solar to electrical conversion in that each potential application must carry and justify its own program. The different applications discussed span a very broad range of scientific and technological areas that require teams of scientists and engineers with different backgrounds and experience, in addition to those experienced in solar concentrator design. Also, equipment developed for one task will not be appropriate to others. In each application reviewed, the solar concentrator, although an important part of the system, is only one of several essential components, as other components may match the solar concentrator in complexity and cost. Consequently, development of better or lower-cost concentrators will not necessarily lead to a range of applications. Research involving the other components of the system can be carried out using artificial light sources.

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Potential Applications of Concentrated Solar Photons Organizational and Institutional Aspects of Research on Applications of Concentrated Solar Photons Research on nonelectric applications of concentrated solar photons was developed with the U.S. government as its major customer. As a result, the successful projects were those that appealed to and were funded by the Department of Energy and other government agencies, not by private sector customers — that is, people and industries providing goods and services. With the U.S. government as customer, SERI and Sandia National Laboratories considered many potential applications. Research into applications of concentrated solar photons has not yet resulted in concepts adopted by industry. The reason for this has not been a lack of scientific or engineering talent or motivation. In the committee's view, in-depth business analyses and translation of such analyses by management to technology, cost, and timing objectives focused on user-oriented projects are imperative. To see an increasing flow of products and processes based on the application of concentrated solar photons, program management should examine internally, possibly through analysis conducted by a business school or management consulting organization, the institutional cultures and values that now define ''success" in the organization. Up to now "success" has largely been associated with obtaining government funds. With recent re-emphasis on technology transfer and industry involvements, the word must be redefined.