Concentration and Storage of Solar Energy in Mining Facilities

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Our Team Logo
Sponsors BiMBy
Team Name Solar Rocks
Duration Fall 2018 - Spring 2019
Faculty Adviser Behnaz Rezaie, Ph.D., P.E.
Mentor Mellissa Bogert
Client Ray Donelick
Team Members
  • Emily Kliewer
  • Jakob Hemphill

Our project is to develop a testing bed that will help determine the feasibility of storing solar energy within a mining facility. Mining operations leave behind a plethora of usable materials such as waste rocks, Carbon Dioxide and a large amounts of usable land. We wish to take these leftover materials and put them to use storing solar energy.

Problem Definition[edit]

Mining facilities in the United States have several drawbacks. They are major sources of pollution, they destroy the environment where the mining takes place and when mining is completed the facility is left as an open pit and the workers lose their jobs. We wish to take these negatives and turn them into profitable solutions.


The idea to turn mining negatives into solutions came from Ray Donelick. He approached the University of Idaho seeking assistance in designing a small scale solution. Ray envisioned a system to focus solar energy and store the heat generated inside of a back-filled mining pit. Solar collectors will focus the energy on a receiver carrying Water. The water will then pass through a heat exchanger depositing the energy into Carbon Dioxide, one of the major pollutants from fossil fuel energy generation. the hot carbon dioxide will then run underground to the thermal storage container. This container consists of a insulating outer barrier with mining waste gravel on the inside. The carbon dioxide will run into the thermal storage container and deposit the heat into the mining waste gravel where it can be stored for long periods of time. Once the energy is stored, the consumer can tap into the available energy when solar energy cannot be readily collected.


The deliverables for this project is a complete testing bed to provide a proof of concept. The parts that will make up this testing bed are as follows:

  • One solar collection system. This will either be a parabolic trough or linear fresnel system.
  • Two heat exchangers. One between the solar collection system and the thermal storage system and one between the thermal storage system and the consumer outlet lines.
  • Two in-line filters, one upstream of each heat exchanger.
  • Two pumps. One liquid pump to move the water through the solar collection system and one gas pump to move carbon dioxide through the thermal storage system.
  • Globe valves throughout the system wherever appropriate.
  • The thermal collection system. This will be constructed by Ray Donelick in close cooperation with our design.
  • Temperature and pressure sensors at each point of interest in the system. 5 of each sensor total.


The specific specifications of the system are still being determined. We expect the system to have a total thermal efficiency greater than 60%. We also expect the thermal storage system to be able to supply the consumer with at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit of usable energy.

Design Considerations[edit]

There are several large considerations we have had to deal with. The biggest considerations are as follows:

  • Solar collection systems are typically very large (10X20 meters or more). We do not currently have the space or capabilities to house a system like this.
  • The solar collection system cannot require special equipment or a concrete foundation for construction.
  • We only have access to 110 volt power supplies. Any pumps we acquire will have to run on standard household appliance circuits.
  • Any working fluids we use cannot freeze in sub-zero temperatures.
  • Piping materials and sealants must be commercially available at most department stores.
  • Piping materials and sealants must be able to withstand the temperatures of the working fluids within them.
  • Temperature and pressure probes will have to be accurate within the appropriate temperature ranges.
  • The data collection system will have to store data for long periods of time, preferably within a CSV file or any other readily usable file format.

Project Learning[edit]

Final Design[edit]


Team Members[edit]

Emily.jpg Emily Kliewer

Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Responsibility: Team Member

Jakob.jpg Jakob Hemphill

Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Priest River, Idaho
Responsibility: Team Member

Additional Documentation[edit]

Project Schedule

Project Schedule

Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes September 10th
Meeting Minutes September 17th
Meeting Minutes September 24th
Meeting Minutes October 9th
Meeting Minutes October 16th
Meeting Minutes October 23th
Meeting Minutes October 30th


Solar Collection Methods
Early System Analysis

Reference Materials

Cost analysis of Renewable Energy Technologies
Heat Transfer Analysis and Modeling of a Parabolic Trough Solar Receiver Implemented in Engineering Equation Solver
Thermal Analysis of the Performance of Linear Fresnel Solar Concentrator
Methodology for the Thermal Characterization of Linear Fresnel Collectors: Comparative of Different Configurations and Working Fluids
A modeling approach for analysis of coupled multiphase fluid flow, heat transfer, and deformation in fractured porous rock