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
- Solar applications
The heliostats alone can provide optics for:
- Astronomical observations
- Satellite calibration