ASME ES 2020 Call for Abstracts

ES 2020, the ASME 14th International Conference on Energy Sustainability, will be in Denver, USA from June 8 – 10, 2020.

The Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) track chairs for ES 2020, invite you to submit your technical paper abstracts by November 7, 2019. For those wishing to submit a presentation-only abstract, these are due by March 1, 2020. We would like to encourage participation from the broader CSP R&D community, including academia, national labs & industry.

Conference tracks that relate to CSP:

Nexus: Energy, Water and Climate

Energy Storage

Concentrating Solar Power

Solar Chemistry

Solar Desalination and Industrial Process Heat

Emerging Technologies

Conference Keynotes, Plenaries and Panels

Conference Posters

Within the CSP track, we encourage a wide range of topics, including:

Gen3 CSP

SunShot 2030 and meeting $0.05/kWh for baseload power

Thermal Energy Storage

Long Duration Storage

Hybrid Concepts including Pumped Thermal Energy Storage with CSP

High Temperature Thermochemistry and Process Heat

Solar Collectors and Optics


Power Cycles including sCO2

Distributed CSP Concepts

Autonomy, Machine Learning and AI

Materials and Manufacturing for CSP

System Integration

System Demonstration

Plant Operations and Maintenance

Visit to submit your abstract.

STERG represented at SolarPACES 2019

The SolarPACES 2019 (Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems) conference was held in the beautiful city of Daegu, South Korea where three master’s students from STERG attended the four-day conference and presented their work to the top researchers in the field. The goal of attending such a conference is to share research, build relationships with industry leaders and learn more about the current trends in CSP.

Several exciting concepts and studies were presented, with significant interest given to falling particle receivers, PV & CSP hybrid concepts as well as optimisation of central receiver systems.

Energy storage systems were also a hot topic and often highlighted as CSP’s most important asset. It was repeatedly demonstrated that thermal storage is the most cost-effective solution for capacities greater than 3 hours, while electrochemical batteries were better suited for quick-response and mobile storage applications. Furthermore, the DLR outlined a plan to retrofit Germany’s existing coal stations into “Carnot batteries” which would store excess energy generated by renewable energy in the form of thermal energy (steam or molten salt) using high-temperature heat pumps. This energy could be used directly to supply heating or drive a thermal power process to generate electricity on demand.

On the trend of storage, several studies investigated solar fuels or other power-to-gas applications that make use of high-temperature reactions facilitated by CSP. These fuels are generally synthesised from H2 and CO2 extracted from the air, making them a carbon neutral fuel source.

A highlight of the conference, the technology innovation award, was presented to Vast Solar from Australia for their work on a modular central receiver tower system using liquid sodium as a working fluid which enables greater reliability and higher working temperatures. Their concept allows for faster construction with smaller teams and enables higher optical efficiency by using polar heliostat field layouts.

Vast Solar’s modular tower design that won SolarPACES 2019 technology innovation award

Sandia demonstrated plans for its third generation CSP particle pilot plant (G3P3) using particle-receivers to heat a super-critical CO2 working fluid to > 700°C with molten salt thermal storage.

As with any conference, you’re bound to run into a couple of familiar faces and this year we met SU alumni, Paul Gauché and Willem Landman, who were both actively involved with STERG in the past. Paul is the founder of STERG and currently the manager of the CSP Department and the National Solar Thermal Test Facility at Sandia National Labs.  Willem is currently working at the CSP division of Schlaich Bergermann Partner (SBP) where he is reimagining heliostat field optimisation and design. His work pushes the idea that unconventional methods can be used to improve existing concepts/ideas.

The conference was a success and we would highly recommend students make the most of this opportunity if given the chance. The next conference, SolarPACES 2020, will be held at Sandia national labs in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A special thanks to STERG, CRSES and our supervisors for funding this opportunity, without which it would not have been possible.

Familiar faces at SolarPACES 2019 with STERG founder, Paul Gauché, pictured at the poster session

STERG Bursary applications open

The Solar Thermal Energy Research Group is now accepting bursary applications for 2020.

The bursary is intended to support research aligned with the interests of the research group, concentrating solar power and solar thermal applications.

For more information click HERE.

STERG Technical Tour 2019

From the 8th to 12th of July 2019, STERG embarked on its first technical tour since 2017.  The tour is aimed at giving students unique access to renewable energy generation plants in South Africa, with a focus on concentrating solar power (CSP).  In collaboration with the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES), a group of 22 Master’s and PhD students, accompanied by professors and academic staff, travelled from Stellenbosch to the Northern Cape.

STERG delegation at Bokpoort CSP plant – a 50 MW parabolic trough plant

The plants visited include CSP parabolic trough (Xina solar one, Bokpoort CSP), CSP power tower (Khi solar one), photovoltaic (Scatec solar) and a concentrated solar power plant (Touws River CPV).  Some of the plants were still in construction and others have been in operation for some time, presenting students with different perspectives of the industry.  The tour allows students to see these power stations first-hand and engage in discussions with operators and engineers, which is something that the general public does not have access to.

The tour was an overall success, and it continues to promote a good relationship with the renewable energy industry.

We would like to thank our hosts at each power plant for making the time to accommodate such a large group and answering all our eager questions.  Thank you to the CRSES for sponsoring part of the costs of the tour.

We look forward to the next tour in 2020!

Dr Paul Gauché awarded the NIPMO Intellectual Property Creators Award 2019

Dr Paul Gauché, Manager of the CSP Department and the National Solar Thermal Test Facility at Sandia National Labs in the USA and founder of the Solar Thermal Energy Research Group (STERG) at the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University, was awarded the NIPMO Intellectual Property Creators Award in 2019.

Dr Gauché was awarded as the Top Intellectual Property Creator for his disclosures of concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies during his directorship at STERG. The award recognizes the most actionable disclosures at Stellenbosch University between 2010 and 2018. The disclosures were applauded as a tool to reduce the triple challenge of unemployment, inequality and poverty in South Africa.

Figure 1: Dr Willie Smit (centre) receiving the NIPMO award on behalf of Dr Paul Gauché from the Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane (left), and the Director-General: Science and Technology, Dr Phil Mjwara (right)

The award was received by STERG’s Dr Willie Smit in Pretoria on 28.03.2019 during a gala dinner hosted by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

STERG would like to thank its founder Dr Paul Gauché for his contribution to growing the research group so rapidly into the today globally recognized entity. We further thank the Department of Science and Technology (DST) for the long standing support of our research and innovation, in particular Mr Somila Xosa and Ms Rebecca Maserumule.

We also thank the DST’s Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) for repeatedly supporting our technology development projects and supporting with the generation of IP and bringing it to life, most famously in the TIA Helio100 project. At Stellenbosch University we thank Ms Anita Nel and Mr Joubert de Wet of our tech transfer office InnovUS for the team spirit and the support in protecting and developing our innovation.

STERG Members and Alumni Winning Awards

Dr Willem Landman, a former STERG researcher received a SANEA/RECORD highly recommended certificate for a young researcher in renewable energy for 2017.

Matthew Kapp, was named one of 6 winners out of 64 entrants in a competition to find ways of improving a ‘smart city’ in Gauteng called Waterfall City. Matthew’s project suggested ways that longer flying drones would be useful for the city. The pitching competition was hosted by Attacq.

Gerard Walsh and Matthew Kapp,  were named one of 7 winners out of 150 entrants in a competition hosted by Santam. The competition hosts were looking for ways of improving safety in South Africa. The pair noticed that traffic congestion is unsafe and suggested using a drone to monitor traffic flow at congested intersections to improve traffic flow.


Well done to all of you!


STERG well represented at SolarPACES2017 in Santiago de Chile

A group of students, professors and academic staff from the Engineering faculty represented the Solar Thermal Energy Research Group (STERG) at the SolarPACES 2017 conference, which took place from 26th to 29th September in Santiago, Chile. The annual conference hosts leading research institutions, industry specialists and experts in concentrating solar power and chemical energy systems with more than 500 participants from 38 countries. Eight Master and PhD students had the opportunity to present their innovative work to an international audience through oral or poster presentations and to discuss new developments in technology, politics and financing of concentrating solar power (CSP). Ten oral and eight poster presentations were conveyed, which evoked substantial interest from renowned researchers and industry representatives alike. The conference was an excellent event for information exchange and networking as well as to present STERG’s research to stakeholders in the field of concentrating solar power.

After the conference, some of the students and professors had the opportunity to stay in Chile to explore. The group had fun exploring Maipo valley, rafting, braaing, wine tasting and hiking in the snowy Andes Mountains.

STERG’s delegation at the conference (from left to right): Prof Theodor von Backström, Christoph Pan, Lina Hockaday, Frank Duvenhage, Willem Krog, Henk Laubscher, Dr Jaap Hoffmann, Bradley Da Silva, JC Nel and Dr Lukas Heller

STERG’s delegation at the conference (from left to right): Prof Theodor von Backström, Christoph Pan, Lina Hockaday, Frank Duvenhage, Willem Krog, Henk Laubscher, Dr Jaap Hoffmann, Bradley Da Silva, JC Nel and Dr Lukas Heller

STERG Technical Tour 2017 to Upington brings universities & renewable energy industry together

The 3rd STERG Technical Tour took place from the 3rd to 7th July 2017 and gave students the opportunity to visit renewable energy generation plants. Students from Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of Pretoria (UP) joined the tour this year, extending STERG’s collaboration with other universities in South Africa. The group of 28 Master’s and PhD students, as well as professors and academic staff, visited several power plants in operation or under construction around Upington in the Northern Cape. The visited plants include concentrated solar power plants (Khi Solar One, Bokpoort, Kathu Solar Park and Ilanga), a photovoltaic plant (Sishen PV) and a concentrated photovoltaic plant (Touws River CPV). The students had the unique opportunity to see large-scale power plants in person and to learn more about the various technologies as well as to engage in discussions with the developers and operators of the plants. The tour has been a great success in past years and continued its objective in maintaining good relations with the renewable energy industry.

The technical tour team being shown around the Khatu Solar Park. Photo courtesy of Frank Duvenhage

The technical tour team being shown around the Khatu Solar Park. Photo courtesy of Frank Duvenhage

The technical tour team at the Khi Solar Plant. Photo courtesy of Frank Duvenhage

The technical tour team at the Khi Solar Plant. Photo courtesy of Frank Duvenhage

A big thank you goes to the various companies and individuals at the power plants who helped in making the tour a reality by accommodating the group on site and taking the time out of their daily operations to show them around as well as answering numerous questions from the students. Thanks to the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) which generously sponsored part of the costs.

We look forward to the next tour!

5th Annual STERG SolarPACES Symposium

The 5th Annual STERG SolarPACES Symposium will take place from the 13th of July 2017 to the 14th of July 2017. Presentations will cover research related to concentrating solar power (CSP) as well as solar process heat. This will provide an opportunity for researchers in the field of solar thermal power and heat to present their work. Interested students, researchers and members of industry and the general public are all welcome to attend. For further information on the symposium visit the page here.