Solar Twining to Create Solar Research Twins (SolarTwins)

Participants: METU, CIEMAT, DLR

Contact:  Eduardo Zarza, eduardo.zarza@psa.es
Julián Blanco, julian.blanco@psa.es

Funding agency: European Commission, HORIZON-2020 WIDESPREAD-03-2018 TWINNING

Background: Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) Technologies offer promising solutions to many societal challenges that lead to a sustainable and low-carbon energy future. Currently, Europe is a global leader in CST technologies, but this leading position is increasingly being challenged by large investments by other countries. SolarTwins is designed to respond to this challenge to European Technological Leadership by Twinning PSA and DLR’s Institute for Solar Research to the CST research laboratory at the Center for Solar Energy Research and Applications (METU-GÜNAM-ODAK) of the Middle East Technical University (METU) at Ankara (Turkey). SOLAR TWINS started in January 2020 with a duration of 3 years.

Objectives: 1) Build-on and strengthen METU-GÜNAM’s synergistic integration into existing EU CST and solar water treatment and desalination R&I networks containing PSA and DLR; 2) Strengthen the scientific profiles of METU-GÜNAM and its researchers; 3) Train a large, diverse and promising pool of METU Early Stage Researchers (ESRs); 4) Formulate joint research lines (JRL) and look for opportunities to increase research funds to all partners; and 5) Disseminate and promote CST, water treatment and desalination technologies in Turkey. The project name SolarTwins reflects the formulation and execution of Individual Twinning in which an expert from PSA or DLR is Twinned to a researcher at METU-GÜNAM.

Achievements in 2021: Three ESR (Early Stage Researchers) from METU involved in the Joint Research Lines between METU and PSA related to Solar Treatment of Water and Desalination spent at PSA the last week in September to visit our facilities devoted to these topics and meet PSA researchers who are working in these activities. The ESRs from METU were informed about the technical features of the PSA facilities and how they are currently used in R+D activities. Additionally, two of those ESRs extended their stay at PSA until October 8th to participate in the Summer School organized by PSA within the framework of the project SFERA-III.

Concerning Solar Treatment of Water, the three ESRs assisted in experiments of urban wastewater decontamination and disinfection. In addition, two main interesting research topics arose in the field of specific contaminants abatement and the development of innovative photocatalytic membranes, and the combination of solar wastewater treatment technologies and PV.

In the field of solar desalination, the ESRs participated in activities with the PSA Multi-Effect Distillation (MED) plant and membrane distillation facilities. They were tutored in the modelling of solar thermal power plants coupled to photovoltaic plants to jointly feed reverse osmosis and water treatment plants. They were trained in the techno-economic analysis and life-cycle analysis of cogeneration plants CSP+MED using parabolic trough collectors, not only for brine concentration but also for the recovery of materials with a high added value.

Additionally, the Materials for CST Technologies Unit has started to participate in this project in 2021, under the framework of the JRL established between DLR and METU in the field of solar reflectors (JRL3 “Optical Characterization”). In particular, some durability tests of solar reflectors were initiated by DLR and CIEMAT at the OPAC facility, including outdoor exposure in two locations and two different accelerated aging tests (UV + humidity and cupper acetic salt spray tests).

In 2021, PSA also performed on-line training activities in SolarTwins. Researchers from the PSA Units of Solar Treatments of Water and Solar Thermal Applications gave three on-line seminars included in the ODAKtr Seminar Series developed from December 2020 to March 2021. The PSA Unit for Line-focus Concentrating Solar Thermal Technologies gave a one-week Summer School on Concentrating Solar Thermal Technologies and their applications, explaining the basic principles and characteristics of these technologies. All these on-line sessions had a high number of attendants.