Operated by Sandia National Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Central Receiver Test Facility (CRTF) is a major location for developing technology to produce electricity from the heat of the sun’s energy. This technology is expected to be commercially competitive with other energy sources.
The primary goal of the CRTF is to provide experimental engineering data for the design, construction, and operation of unique components and systems in proposed solar thermal electrical plants planned for large-scale power generation.
As the nation’s prime test resource for the DOE program to develop solar thermal electric power, the CRTF also serves other researchers, including government contractors and agencies, research institutes, universities, and private companies.
Key features of the CRTF are its flexibility and broad capability specifically, it is designed and instrumented to provide test facilities for a variety of solar receivers and heliostats. It is used for evaluating materials, for testing other energy conversion techniques (such as photovoltaics and parabolic dishes and troughs), and for developing unique chemical and metallurgical processes.
The heliostats and tower provide:
6 MW total thermal power
Peak flux to 350 W/cm²
Illumination of target areas up to about 2,800 m²
Time-dependent control of the thermal flux
The tower and heliostat field can be used to:
Expose and measure the thermal performance of components and materials
Measure the effects of aerodynamic heating on radar transmission
Simulate nuclear thermal flash
The heliostats alone can provide optics for:
The tower is a 61 m (200 ft) high concrete structure with three test locations on the north side and the top of the tower. The tower can support testing for CSP experiments and large-scale, high-flux materials samples. The equipment in the tower includes a 100-ton capacity elevating module for lifting experiments to the top of the tower, internal cranes for receiver fabrication, water glycol cooling systems and air coolers to provide heat removal from experiments, air compressors, control valves, generators, uninterruptible power supplies, piping systems, and pressure-relief valves.