Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy

By using parabolic trough collectors, ENEA has developed an innovative technology chain based on a molten salt mixture functioning as heat transfer fluid and thermal storage. Compared with diathermic oil, this technology allows the operating temperature to be increased thus resulting in significant benefits as to the plant’s operation, safety and environmentally-friendly impact. Other considerable advantages derive from the possible integration of this solar plant with the conventional thermoelectric plants and an efficient thermal energy storage, thus increasing the “dispatchability” of the electric power produced against the unpredictability of the solar source.

The first industrial plant powered by the ENEA solar technology has been realized by ENEL in Priolo Gargallo (SR) – under the Archimede Project – and is currently in the demonstration phase.

Based on the expertise and skills matured within the project, currently ENEA is the national referee for the concentrated solar energy technology. The Agency has the ownership of several patents and exclusive skills, and collaborates with a number of companies within several national and international initiatives aimed at enhancing and diffusing this technology. The activities ENEA performs in this field are as follows:

  1. design, development and demonstration of solar power plants for electric power production, cogeneration or water desalination, also integrated with other renewable or fossil sources;
  2. design, building of prototypes, testing, engineering, and qualification of innovative components for solar power plants, especially receiving tubes, solar collectors (supporting structure, reflecting panels, and pointing system), and components of the molten salt circuit (flexible joints, auxiliary heaters, special equipment);
  3. development of new concentrated solar technology applications, including hydrogen production through thermochemical processes and the industrial use of high-temperature thermal energy from the sun.


To carry out these activities ENEA involves a team of 70 researchers and technicians, specific experimental infrastructures (plants and laboratories) located at the Casaccia and Portici research centres, a network of industrial collaborations with over 30 Italian companies, and agreements with several nations interested in building solar plants, including Egypt, Libya, and China.