U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

SunShot Initiative

Integrated Solar Thermochemical Reaction System

PNNL logo Photo of cylinder-shaped device with a wider, white base that slims to a metallic tip.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is developing a prototype solar thermochemical reaction system.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, under the 2012 SunShot Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) R&D funding opportunity announcement (FOA), is creating a new CSP method for hybridization with fossil-fuel plants. The system uses solar energy to drive a chemical reaction that produces a gas capable of offsetting the need for fossil fuels in traditional power plants.


The research team is working to significantly advance the technology readiness level of a CSP system based on parabolic dish concentrators and thermochemical reaction systems that provide a solar thermochemical augment of at least 20% to a chemical fuel (i.e., methane from natural gas or biogas) for use in a modified natural-gas combined-cycle (NGCC) power plant.

The goals of this project are to:

  • Improve the performance of the solar thermochemical reaction system, increasing the solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency from 63% to about 75% and increasing the solar thermochemical augment from about 20% to as much as 28%
  • Establish the design and manufacturing methods that enable solar power generation at a levelized cost of electricity of no more than $0.06 per kilowatt-hour by 2020
  • Set a validated baseline for capital costs of solar thermochemical systems.


This highly efficient solar thermochemical reaction system is innovative in a variety of ways. First, it uses a modified NGCC that is already well-developed at high efficiency and can be constructed with relatively low capital costs compared to other power-generation options. Second, the system is capable of operating around the clock, regardless of the availability of sunlight and without requiring energy storage. Finally, the development and commercialization path to this system is relatively short, so it can be commercialized and operational at multiple locations before 2020.

Publications, Patents, and Awards

At this time, this project does not have published articles, patents, or awards.

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Progress Reports
April 2013

The SunShot CSP R&D program seeks to accelerate progress toward the cost target of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour through novel and revolutionary research into CSP technologies. Learn about other DOE competitive awards for concentrating solar power research that are in progress.