Four Triad universities are working together on a project to significantly reduce the cost of generating electricity from sunlight.
The Four Universities Solar Consortium is composed of scientists and engineers from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Wake Forest University, and Winston-Salem State University.
The team’s specific goal is to develop a low-cost solar concentrator that will make the production of electricity from sunlight economically viable and widespread.
To do that, the team will have to advance the science of using concentrated sunlight to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen and then develop a way to store the hydrogen on site for capacity leveling. “This further requires developing and integrating, through industrial partnerships, three important supporting technologies for mirrors, waste-heat recovery, and high-temperature photovoltaics and catalytic reactors,” the team’s proposal says.
The project was one of three finalists for a $100,000 grant from the four schools’ Triad Interuniversity Planning Project (TIPP). The provosts of the schools are funding the one-year project. Each finalist previously received a one-year TIPP planning grant of $20,000.
“We were betting in the planning phase that an acre of mirrors could be constructed more cheaply than an acre of efficient photovoltaics, and that the higher temperature of waste heat from concentrator systems will open routes for reclaiming some of it as electricity,” the team said in its proposal.