Published on February 13th, 2008 | by Carol Gulyas1
Infinia Corporation Announces More Efficient Solar Electricity
February 13th, 2008 by Carol Gulyas
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.”
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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