Low-Cost Nontracking Asymmetric Shadeless Solar Thermal Collector for Industrial Process Heating

This project will develop a low-cost, high-efficiency solar thermal collector for industrial process heating.


Winston Cone Optics, Inc.


Merced, CA

Recipient Location



Amount Spent



Project Status

Projects Updates/The Results

The project was executed on 5/17/21 and the project team is currently working on contracting, permitting, and system studies and design. The first Technical Advisory Committee meeting was held on 7/21/21.

The Issue

The industrial sector is a major consumer, accounting for approximately 1/3 of all natural gas consumption in the state, where it is primarily used for process heating and indirect boiler heating in the manufacturing sector at temperatures between 100-200 °C. While low and high temperature solar thermal technologies exist, this medium temperature range (100-200 °C) has been historically underdeveloped. What is needed is a solar technology which combines the low cost and low maintenance of non-tracking systems with the high efficiency of concentrating systems to achieve a levelized cost of 100-200 °C heat which is competitive with natural gas.

Project Innovation

This project will develop a low-cost, high-efficiency solar thermal collector for industrial process heating by using a unique asymmetric nonimaging optical design and scaling up the technology through iterative demonstrations at a testing facility and an industrial host site. The project team will be demonstrating a Non-tracking Asymmetric Shadeless design, which collapses the External Compound Parabolic Collector technology from a tilted collector into a collector with a flat horizontal aperture. Doing so provides a number of benefits, including cost reductions and performance enhancements, reducing capital and O&M costs, while maximizing annual generation. The project is consistent with the California Energy Commission's mission of leading the state to a 100 percent clean energy future.

Project Benefits

In California, the industrial sector accounts for one-third of the total natural gas consumption and roughly one-fourth of the state's greenhouse gas emissions. The vast majority of this consumed natural gas is used for process heat or indirect boiler applications in the manufacturing industry. This project will help reduce natural gas consumption for industrial process heating, resulting in air pollutant and greenhouse gas emission reductions. Advancing solar thermal technologies to reduce capital and O&M costs while maximizing annual generation will decrease the levelized cost of heat and increase market availability and adoption in industrial and commercial facilities.

Lower Costs

Lower Costs

The team is planning to install a 500 square meter solar field on the rooftop, for a total installed cost of approximately $75,000. Each year the solar field will generate approximately 350,000 kWh (11,945 therms), provide natural gas savings14 on the order of 411,764 kWh (14,053 therms), and gross savings of $10,400 per year15 (simple payback of 7.2 years). At a target installed cost of $150/m2, system affordability is a key ratepayer benefit. Combined with a low O&M cost and high annual production, the technology provides a low levelized cost of heat of 1.43 cents per kWh.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental & Public Health

Each square meter of installed collector area will avoid 329 lbs of equivalent carbon dioxide emissions, annually. Each square meter of installed collector will generate 24 therms, thereby reducing natural gas consumption by 28 therms per square meter annually (when replacing natural gas burned in an 85% efficient boiler). This reduces dependence on natural gas infrastructure and the need for large-scale transmission and storage.

Contact the Team