Energy and Climate


Photovoltaics (PV) is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar light into electricity. Sandia photovoltaic work is centered on developing cost-effective, reliable photovoltaic energy systems produced by US industry and used worldwide.
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Concentrating Solar Power

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) uses mirrors to concentrate a large area of sunlight, onto a small area. Electrical power is produced when the concentrated light is converted to heat which drives a generator.

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Sunshine to Petrol

Sunshine to Petrol Solar Furnace

The Sunshine to Petrol (S2P) program seeks to create a sustainable liquid fuels solution that can replace petrolium-based fuels on a large scale. Work currently centers on the production of synthetic fuels from carbon dioxide using solar energy.
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On average, about one and a half hours of the sunlight that falls on Earth could supply humanity with enough energy to meet all the world’s needs for an entire year. Harnessing even a fraction of this energy could supply humanity with abundant energy to live, move about, and thrive industrially and economically well into the foreseeable future. Sandia is working hard to help make this dream a reality.

Typically, solar energy is harnessed in one of two ways: photovoltaics (PV) use specially selected and fabricated materials that use the sun’s energy to liberate bound electrons in the material which are then captured and channeled to produce electric current—on the other hand, concentrating solar power (CSP) uses mirrors or lenses to focus a broad field of solar energy onto a smaller receiver. The concentrated thermal energy is then used to drive some form of heat engine that produces either electricity or mechanical work.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)

In virtually all applications CSP is large power, on the order of 100 MW or larger, that is used by utilities to generate electricity and distribute to consumers. In a CSP plant, solar energy is converted to heat and the heat is used in a conventional power cycle or other heat engine to produce mechanical power and drive a generator.

Sunshine to Petrol (S2P)

Sunshine to Petrol Solar Furnace

Sandia’s Sunshine to Petrol (S2P) team seeks to address the critical national and global issues of growing energy consumption amid increased vulnerability and price volatility of petroleum supplies and climate change risks. The transportation and industrial sectors in the United States are deeply dependent on petroleum, a dominant energy source for these sectors and a driver of greenhouse gas emissions. An alternative energy carrier coupled to a sustainable energy source that can be used within existing infrastructure, distribution, and traditional petroleum-based combustion systems is necessary to assure national security, enhance U.S. economic competitiveness, demonstrate leadership in mitigating the risks of climate change, and promote a smooth transition to an energy-secure and diversified transportation mix.

Solar Publications

Sandia Report Presents Analysis of Glare Impacts of Ivanpah Solar Power SiteThe Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) consists of three 459-ft-tall power towers and over 170,000 reflective heliostats with a rated capacity of 390 MW. The California Energy Commission (CEC) has received numerous pilot and air traffic controller glare-impact reports. The situation is serious because pilots report that they cannot “scan the sky in that direction […]
Sandia Wins Award for Best Poster at 40th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialist Conference (PVSC)  Sandia researcher Jay Johnson (in Sandia’s Photovoltaic & Distributed Systems Integration Dept.) and a collaborating team from Texas A&M University were recognized at the 40th Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) PVSC held in Denver, Colorado, on June 8–13, 2014, winning the event’s Best Poster award for “Evaluation Method for Arc Fault Detection […]
Sandia Student Wins Best Paper Award at IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists ConferenceMatthew Reno, a Sandian and an electrical engineering PhD candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was given a Best Student Paper award for research reported in, “Impact of PV Variability and Ramping Events on Distribution Voltage Regulation Equipment” at the 40th Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC) held in […]

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