Solar tower Jülich: Shining beacon of solar research

Four sided, 60 metres high, but rather unimposing: In the Jülich (STJ) experimental solar thermal power plant, scientists are not just conducting research for scientific interest: The solar thermal technologies developed by DLR are already currently providing sunny regions of the earth with power and heat. The expertise from Jülich could become an export success.

More than 2,000 movable mirrors (heliostats) follow the path of the sun. They concentrate the solar radiation onto a receiver at the top of the tower, which converts the irradiation into high temperature heat at 700°C. A large ceramic storage unit absorbs the heat, and is able to store it for several days and make it available when required. Water is evaporated with the high temperature heat, which drives a turbine, thus generating the solar electricity. The Jülich solar tower has a peak power of 1.5 MW. In Germany, the Jülich tower is the only one of its kind and research is in full swing.

Engine for progress:

  • the largest research unit for concentrating solar systems in Germany
  • 30 years of research experience, leading worldwide systems expertise
  • potential to save billions of tonnes of CO2
  • close cooperation with industry and direct transfer of technology

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Photo: DLR

Solar Tower Jülich and heliostat farm: The Institute for Solar Research at the DLR was recently founded in 2011. It is Germany's largest research unit for research and development of concentrating solar technology. The DLR has 30 years of research experience in this field.

Pilot plant for commercial power stations

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Solar Institute of the Aachen University of Applied Sciences have joined forces in Jülich to jointly forward their expertise in the area of concentrating solar power (CSP) and to improve individual components of the system. "This technology is not for Germany but will be used in sunny regions of the world," notes Prof. Bernhard Hoffschmidt, Director of the Institute for Solar Research. "The Jülich solar tower serves as a pilot plant and a reference for the desired future commercial power stations."

Spain is a leader in solar thermal power

With about 50 solar thermal power plants, Spain is currently the leader in the use of this energy source. Here alone in 2012 over 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 were saved relative to the energy from fossil fuels. [ ] The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects the global share of electricity from solar thermal power plants to total eleven per cent by 2050. If the global target from solar thermal power plants of 1,000 GW by 2050 is achieved, more than 2 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions will be avoided annually. This corresponds to approximately one third of the CO2 emissions in Europe in 2012.

Whatever the weather, thanks to heat storage, the economy benefits from this expertise

Although there will be no viable solar power plants established in Germany, the economy can benefit from the exported expertise and secondary applications. The heat storage used can be transferred to other applications and can make a valuable contribution to the transformation of the energy system. In contrast to many other renewable energy sources such as wind power and photovoltaics, the biggest advantage of the technology is, in fact, the weather independence. The heat storage can save the generated heat for many hours, so that electricity flows even when the sun is not shining. Other research activities include the use of concentrating solar technology for the production of solar fuels and the use of solar energy for water purification.

Photo: DLR

"Our research will not only contribute to global climate protection with the advancement of solar thermal power plants. We create new fields for industry, for example, the heat storage we have developed can be used for other applications. "

Prof. Bernhard Hoffschmidt, Director of the Institute for Solar Research

Partners and sponsors

  • DLR-Institut für Solarforschung
  • Solar-Institut Jülich (SIJ) der FH Aachen
  • Ministerium für Innovation, Wissenschaft und Forschung (MIWF)
  • Ministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz (MKULNV)
Counselling centers:
  • EnergieAgentur.NRW