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Published on February 13th, 2008 | by Carol Gulyas

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Infinia Corporation Announces More Efficient Solar Electricity

February 13th, 2008 by  


Infinia’s Stirling engine

Problems with silicon-based solar electricity (PV)

In the world of solar electricity generation, the price and shortage of silicon have been barriers to wider adaptation of solar photovoltaic (PV), especially as demand continues to rise. Solar PV’s efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity has also been criticized. That’s why non-silicon-based alternatives are especially attractive. I spoke with Gregg Clevenger, CFO of Infinia Corporation, on Monday (February 11) to find out what his company is up to and why renewable energy advocates are all atwitter about it.

According to Gregg, “We set out to address climate change and went back to ground zero with our Stirling engine product, to develop it into a design that is simple enough to be mass-produced widely and to generate solar electricity at 20-30% of the cost of solar PV.”


The Stirling Engine, from deep space to earth

Infinia developed its Stirling engine for NASA, for use in deep space, where spaceships have an obvious need for an engine that will last 25 years and require little to no maintenance. It has simplified the engine for use by utility-scale solar generators, and is receiving financial backing from heavy hitters like Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft), among others, to expand manufacturing.

How does it work?

Giant dishes capture sunlight in the form of concentrated heat, driving a mechanical power generator to deliver electricity at an efficiency rate of over 24%, vs. the 11%-20% efficiency of silicon solar cells.

The company anticipates a volume of 1500 units per month before the end of this year, producing 54 MW of solar electricity, or enough to power 11,250 homes. The first units will be made at the company’s headquarters in Kennewick, Washington, but will soon be manufactured worldwide. Customers will be small to medium power plants.

Image: Stirling engine and solar concentrating dish Source: Infinia Corporation 
 


 


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About the Author

Carol Gulyas is a leader in the renewable energy community in Illinois, where she serves as VP of the Board of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. Recently she co-founded EcoAchievers -- a provider of online education for the renewable energy and sustainable living community. She spent 18 years in the direct marketing industry in New York and Chicago, and is currently a teaching librarian at Columbia College Chicago. Carol grew up in a small town in central Indiana, then lived in the Pacific Northwest, Lima, Peru, and New York City. She is inspired by reducing energy consumption through the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green building technology.



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