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Solar for industrial processes refers to the use of solar energy to generate heat for various industrial applications. This includes processes such as water desalination, oil recovery, food processing, chemical production, and mineral processing. Solar energy can be utilized through concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technologies or by using photovoltaic panels to power resistive heaters or heat pumps.

CSP technologies involve the use of mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver, which can reach high temperatures suitable for industrial processes. This makes CSP well-suited for applications that require a wide range of temperatures, from low-temperature food production to high-temperature chemical processes.

Implementing solar for industrial processes is important due to the significant energy consumption of the industrial sector. In the United States, the industrial sector accounts for a considerable portion of total energy consumption. Advancing solar technologies for industrial processes aligns with the goals of achieving a carbon-free energy sector by 2050.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) conducts research and funding programs related to solar for industrial processes. Projects under SETO focus on areas such as solar thermal desalination, developing low-cost solar collectors and thermal energy storage technologies for low-temperature industrial processes, and advancing high-temperature thermal systems for processes that require elevated temperatures.

SETO’s funding programs include the Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Research, Development, and Demonstration program, the Solar Desalination Prize, the Solar Desalination funding program, and various other programs that explore solar-hybrid approaches and component advancements in CSP systems.

By advancing solar technologies for industrial processes, there is potential to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency, and contribute to sustainable industrial practices.

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