Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

NRE 8011/8012 and MP 6011/6012 Seminar

Nuclear & Radiological Engineering and Medical Physics Programs


Integrating Advanced Nuclear and Concentrating Solar Power


Dr. Ben Lindley


Assistant Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Thursday, January 27, 2022 at 11:00:00 AM   Add to Calendar


Boggs Building, Room 3-47


Dan Kotlyar


Increased contributions from wind and solar energy have helped set the United States on an attainable pathway towards carbon-free energy production. Though renewable energy is pivotal for this goal, saturating the grid with these variable energy sources has its challenges. Solar photovoltaic production has a drastic mismatch since the peaks for power demand and power production are often out of phase: production peaks with available irradiance while demand peaks during the morning and evening hours. This duck curve in energy demand, the difference between high and low demand, grows as the grid becomes more saturated with renewable energy providers. This is problematic for nuclear reactors, which have high fixed costs and low variable costs, as they cannot easily take advantage of high prices, and lose money when prices are low. One method for harnessing solar energy and mitigating resource variability is through use of a concentrating solar power (CSP) plant. The CSP power tower technology uses a field of heliostats to reflect sunlight onto a single receiver atop a tower. The concentrated light heats a flow loop of molten salt, which is then stored directly in large insulated tanks for thermal energy storage (TES). By over-producing energy from the receiver relative to power cycle demand, a portion of the salt can be stored and then discharged during high-demand hours when the sunlight is not available. Advanced nuclear reactor designers are increasingly interested in similarly using TES to store energy when the electricity price is low and dispatch it when the price is high. In our work, we investigate coupling of an advanced nuclear reactor, in our case a lead-cooled fast reactor, with concentrating solar power, so both can take advantage of the molten salt TES, along with other component synergies. Next, we optimize the operation of the system to store energy when prices are low and dispatch when prices are high. Here, the cost of oversizing the turbine and the cost of the TES offset the extra revenue generation from flexible operation, so a trade-off study is required to enable efficient overall system design.


Ben Lindley joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Engineering Physics as Assistant Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics in 2020. His current research focusses on nuclear/renewable integration and the flexible operation of nuclear power; advanced reactor design and reactor physics, collaborating with leading universities, national labs and industry. Prior to joining the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ben was a senior nuclear engineer and reactor physicist at Jacobs (formerly Wood, Amec) in the UK (2014-2020). As Customer Liaison Manager and later ANSWERS Technical Director, Ben played a key role in the development and application of the ANSWERS UK industry standard radiation transport codes to current and next generation nuclear systems. In particular, Ben led the development of calculation methodologies for BWRs (in support of planned deployment of the ABWR by Hitachi/Horizon), SFRs (through the ESNII+ and ESFR-SMART Euratom projects) and Molten Salt Reactors. Ben also played a crucial role in the core physics design of the UKSMR, leading to development of IP and patent application(s). Ben has substantial experience in developing R&D programs and leading complex inter-disciplinary packages of work (up to several $M), including in the areas of digital engineering for nuclear reactors; fusion reactor simulation; and advanced reactor core & primary system design. Ben holds a PhD in Nuclear Engineering and Meng & BA degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cambridge, UK.