#1 cleantech news, reviews, & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today. The future is now.


Clean Power

Published on August 25th, 2009 | by Timothy B. Hurst

45

World’s Most Efficient Solar Technology Coming Soon

August 25th, 2009 by  


The long-awaited commercial deployment of the world’s most efficient solar technology looks like it will now be near Phoenix, in a 1.5-megawatt, 60-unit deployment of Stirling Energy Systems’ solar thermal collectors.

 

Announced late last week, the 60-dish Maricopa Solar project will be the first commercial-scale solar facility built using Stirling Energy Systems/Tessera Solar‘s SunCatcher concentrating solar technology.

[social_buttons]

The SunCatcher consists of a solar concentrator in a dish structure that supports an array of curved glass mirrors. Iterations of the SunCatcher have been among the world’s most efficient machines for solar-to-grid electric conversion for twenty years, most recently breaking the record last year with the highest-ever conversion rate of 31.25%.

The project will serve as a precursor to the deployment of much larger commercial projects previously announced in California and Texas that total more than 1,600 MW.

“It’s like kicking the tires,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of marketing and regulatory affairs for Stirling Energy Systems, in an interview earlier this summer. Gallagher added that the credit crunch made a demo project more critical than before to win financial support. “We think that the lenders and investors are going to want to see more of a slice of a system operating and some data before they are willing to finance larger projects.”

Mixing the old with the new

The SunCatcher mixes old technology with new design. By employing a system of mirrors attached to a parabolic dish to concentrate the sun’s energy onto a high‐efficiency Stirling Engine, each dish can generate up to 25,000 watts of power.

At its most intense spot, the heat produced is equivalent to a blistering 13,000 suns, “That’ll melt almost anything known to man,” says Sandia National Laboratories’ engineer Chuck Andraka. “It’s incredibly hot.” Sandia has worked extensively on developing the new iteration of the technology.

The SunCatcher is a 40-foot wide, 25-kilowatt-electrical (kWe) solar dish Stirling system designed to automatically track the sun and collect and focus solar energy onto a Power Conversion Unit (PCU), which then generates electricity.

The PCU converts the focused solar thermal energy into grid-quality electricity with a a closed-cycle, four-cylinder, reciprocating Solar Stirling Engine utilizing an internal working fluid that is recycled through the engine. The hydrogen gas in the PCU’s solar receiver tubes heats up and this gas in turn powers the Solar Stirling Engine.

Stirling Engines have been around for over a century-and-a-half and are recognized for their efficiency, reliability, and because they can use almost any external heat source to power the engine.

An additional advantage of the technology is that the SunCatcher requires no water for heating or cooling and a minimal amount of water is required to wash the mirrors. The water component is particularly helpful in the dry climate of the desert southwest, where this and other future projects are currently in development.

Using the North American automotive supply chains for solar deployment

“They have the lowest water use of any thermal electric generating technology, require minimal grading and trenching, require no excavation for foundations, and will not produce greenhouse gas emissions while converting sunlight into electricity,” said Sandia engineer Andraka.

By utilizing the automotive supply chain to manufacture the SunCatcher, Tessera hopes to leverage leverage the talents of an industry that has refined high-volume production through an assembly line process. The forty reflective mirrors needed for the construction of each dish are formed into a parabolic shape using stamped sheet metal similar to the hood of a car. The mirrors are made by using automobile manufacturing techniques.

The company says more than 90 percent of the SunCatcher components will be manufactured in North America.

Because of the Maricopa Solar Project’s proximity to existing grid infrastructure—adjacent to the 650-megawatt Agua Fria generating station—project leaders say it should be online in early 2010.

via: Clean Edge


Tags: , ,


About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.



  • Pingback: Top 10 Solar Technologies to Watch Out For - CleanTechnica()

  • Pingback: Solar Energy Blowing Up, & in Surprising Places! – CleanTechnica: Cleantech innovation news and views()

  • Heidi

    Does anyone have info on how much they cost or how to aquire one of these?

  • I lived in Arizona for 25 years and one thing I learned for sure. If there is any way to screw something up, Phoenix will find it. If there is no way, they will invent a way.

    Stirling Energy Systems will discover for themselves they should have placed this in New Mexico.

  • I lived in Arizona for 25 years and one thing I learned for sure. If there is any way to screw something up, Phoenix will find it. If there is no way, they will invent a way.

    Stirling Energy Systems will discover for themselves they should have placed this in New Mexico.

  • rich EE

    I also did the math and got exactly identical

    results to PVinsights . 21.41 pcnt.

    [based on 1 KW per square meter .]

  • rich EE

    I also did the math and got exactly identical

    results to PVinsights . 21.41 pcnt.

    [based on 1 KW per square meter .]

  • MD

    sailingsoul has a point…

    You know what the dirty little secret behind smart meters is don’t you?

    Make a meter smart enough to figure out TOU and how many VA get pumped into your home, i.e. a 25W CFL may consume 50VA, how much harmonics are coming out of your house, and how poor your homes power factor is…

    As a result your power utility can charge you for what time you ran anything with a motor (inductive device), how many VA your lights and appliances draw (not everything is a resistive load), how much harmonics your cheap appliances create, and how poor your homes power factor is…

    All ways to take more of your $$$

  • MD

    sailingsoul has a point…

    You know what the dirty little secret behind smart meters is don’t you?

    Make a meter smart enough to figure out TOU and how many VA get pumped into your home, i.e. a 25W CFL may consume 50VA, how much harmonics are coming out of your house, and how poor your homes power factor is…

    As a result your power utility can charge you for what time you ran anything with a motor (inductive device), how many VA your lights and appliances draw (not everything is a resistive load), how much harmonics your cheap appliances create, and how poor your homes power factor is…

    All ways to take more of your $$$

  • sailingsoul

    Ha Ha Ha, You think this going to change anything for you? Anyone who thinks that someday smaller versions of this will be on local roofs, are uninformed, or being selectively blind to how the market works. For example; Look at when Nanosolar announced (Dec.07) they can sell panels at under $1 a watt, their next words were, but our production is already sold for over the next year. Prove me wrong, Google “nanosolar panels for sale”, you can’t get them NO WHERE at almost two years later. They’ll not being sold to the larger market of 10’s of millions of home owners (++100M world wide), but to power producers, who already have the monopoly and intend to keep it. Like in Germany and Spain who are both building +1 Mw Nanosolar farms and will be selling the power to users, at oil prices.

    Just look at how this new generator is being implemented. The’ re going to put 60 of these units on new land, far from users and sell the power to users at oil prices, transmission losses be dammed, instead of on users roofs where the power is used. They (oil) invested in this during the early development and as investors will never allow any end user, to buy this “now proven?” hardware that takes free sun and outputs electricity.

    Come on people, wake up! Can you really believe for a second, that the power producers that sell every household power, at $50 a month and much more, will ever allow any company to sell a product that will give their customers an alternative cutting then out. No way.

    OH YES! This is good news. Electricity at oil prices, without the oil. However end users, need not apply. SS

    P.S. Don’t believe that any “new break through” in wind power will mean your going to benefit. There going to get that “zoned” prohibited when it becomes a threat.

  • sailingsoul

    Ha Ha Ha, You think this going to change anything for you? Anyone who thinks that someday smaller versions of this will be on local roofs, are uninformed, or being selectively blind to how the market works. For example; Look at when Nanosolar announced (Dec.07) they can sell panels at under $1 a watt, their next words were, but our production is already sold for over the next year. Prove me wrong, Google “nanosolar panels for sale”, you can’t get them NO WHERE at almost two years later. They’ll not being sold to the larger market of 10’s of millions of home owners (++100M world wide), but to power producers, who already have the monopoly and intend to keep it. Like in Germany and Spain who are both building +1 Mw Nanosolar farms and will be selling the power to users, at oil prices.

    Just look at how this new generator is being implemented. The’ re going to put 60 of these units on new land, far from users and sell the power to users at oil prices, transmission losses be dammed, instead of on users roofs where the power is used. They (oil) invested in this during the early development and as investors will never allow any end user, to buy this “now proven?” hardware that takes free sun and outputs electricity.

    Come on people, wake up! Can you really believe for a second, that the power producers that sell every household power, at $50 a month and much more, will ever allow any company to sell a product that will give their customers an alternative cutting then out. No way.

    OH YES! This is good news. Electricity at oil prices, without the oil. However end users, need not apply. SS

    P.S. Don’t believe that any “new break through” in wind power will mean your going to benefit. There going to get that “zoned” prohibited when it becomes a threat.

  • Great info ,Smaller units could go directly on the roofs of factories, warehouses, department stores and commercial businesses, airports, schools and universities, hospitals, appartment buildings, government and military buildings, etc. – even homes

  • Great info ,Smaller units could go directly on the roofs of factories, warehouses, department stores and commercial businesses, airports, schools and universities, hospitals, appartment buildings, government and military buildings, etc. – even homes

  • Bill T.

    Forest of windmills in the north, solar dishes sprouting like wildflowers in the desert — it’s byoo-tee-full!!!

  • Bill T.

    Forest of windmills in the north, solar dishes sprouting like wildflowers in the desert — it’s byoo-tee-full!!!

  • Fcarrera

    Lets agree with Sandia National Laboratories with their math, and for the sake of argument 21.414%, efficiency.

    Having smaller units in roof tops or back yards is better return on your investment with less risk of having your savings tied up in a mishandled world economy.

    I would jump on this investment in a heartbeat.

  • Fcarrera

    Lets agree with Sandia National Laboratories with their math, and for the sake of argument 21.414%, efficiency.

    Having smaller units in roof tops or back yards is better return on your investment with less risk of having your savings tied up in a mishandled world economy.

    I would jump on this investment in a heartbeat.

  • Really good article. Although this technology had been mentioned several times it is good news to know that there is going to be a real deployment of this hybrid solar technology. Now the questions for us as off-the-grid consumers: When is it going to be available to the general public for residential use? Could anyone provide a cost-efectivenes comparisons against solar photovaltic panels?

    Regards

    Octavio Torres, from Mexico

  • Really good article. Although this technology had been mentioned several times it is good news to know that there is going to be a real deployment of this hybrid solar technology. Now the questions for us as off-the-grid consumers: When is it going to be available to the general public for residential use? Could anyone provide a cost-efectivenes comparisons against solar photovaltic panels?

    Regards

    Octavio Torres, from Mexico

  • Kevin McClard

    We have the technology, but do we have the will? This country could be 100% energy independent within ten years, maybe less, and this solar technology could be a major player in that achievement. We have natural gas reserves that will last for at least 200 years, coal reserves that will last for thousands and a wind corridor that, by itself, could be used to provide 20% of all electrical power the country needs. But our political dynamic is such that those in power continue to maintain the status quo, even at the cost of the well being of the American people. When the politicians and financial institutions get out of the way and let America do what it does best, lead and let the rest of the world play catch up, that will be news.

  • Kevin McClard

    We have the technology, but do we have the will? This country could be 100% energy independent within ten years, maybe less, and this solar technology could be a major player in that achievement. We have natural gas reserves that will last for at least 200 years, coal reserves that will last for thousands and a wind corridor that, by itself, could be used to provide 20% of all electrical power the country needs. But our political dynamic is such that those in power continue to maintain the status quo, even at the cost of the well being of the American people. When the politicians and financial institutions get out of the way and let America do what it does best, lead and let the rest of the world play catch up, that will be news.

  • Darren

    Just a thought, could these dishes double up as radio receivers for things like space exploration? Or could existing dishes be converted..?

  • Darren

    Just a thought, could these dishes double up as radio receivers for things like space exploration? Or could existing dishes be converted..?

  • chrisp68

    This could sure help Vegas out. The water behind Hoover Dam is getting lower by the year and less energy production follows. But it only means they will be able to turn the lights on earlier and keep them on longer.

  • chrisp68

    This could sure help Vegas out. The water behind Hoover Dam is getting lower by the year and less energy production follows. But it only means they will be able to turn the lights on earlier and keep them on longer.

  • Aureon Kwolek

    As long as you can put these things on an existing transmission line, that makes them more cost effective. If you have to build a new line, you’re talking big bucks, years to implement, and increasing energy loss in proportion to increasing distance of power transmission.

    Localizing energy is more desirable and more efficient. It’s not just how pristine the technology is – It’s also how you implement it. I would rather see a 10 foot diameter unit that would be more useful. Connect it directly to the neighborhood grid. Minimize expensive, time consuming, ugly transmission lines cluttering our landscape.

    Smaller units could go directly on the roofs of factories, warehouses, department stores and commercial businesses, airports, schools and universities, hospitals, appartment buildings, government and military buildings, etc. – even homes.

    Arizona, West Texas and the desert SW can really capitalize on this. Congratulations to the developers of this design for their long term effort.

  • Aureon Kwolek

    As long as you can put these things on an existing transmission line, that makes them more cost effective. If you have to build a new line, you’re talking big bucks, years to implement, and increasing energy loss in proportion to increasing distance of power transmission.

    Localizing energy is more desirable and more efficient. It’s not just how pristine the technology is – It’s also how you implement it. I would rather see a 10 foot diameter unit that would be more useful. Connect it directly to the neighborhood grid. Minimize expensive, time consuming, ugly transmission lines cluttering our landscape.

    Smaller units could go directly on the roofs of factories, warehouses, department stores and commercial businesses, airports, schools and universities, hospitals, appartment buildings, government and military buildings, etc. – even homes.

    Arizona, West Texas and the desert SW can really capitalize on this. Congratulations to the developers of this design for their long term effort.

  • Aix

    I have to agree with Timothy on this one. I would assume that they don’t just put up random numbers for the hell of it. Would they be able to make smaller versions of these to be able to put on a rooftop as well? this could completely dispose of large bulky panels that look atrocious.

  • Aix

    I have to agree with Timothy on this one. I would assume that they don’t just put up random numbers for the hell of it. Would they be able to make smaller versions of these to be able to put on a rooftop as well? this could completely dispose of large bulky panels that look atrocious.

  • PVinsights.com did the math and the efficiency of this technolgoy is around 21.414%. The methodlogy is the following formulas. 25,000 watts / ((3.14159*20* 0.3048*20*0.348) * 1,000 watts) is equal to 21.414%.

  • PVinsights.com did the math and the efficiency of this technolgoy is around 21.414%. The methodlogy is the following formulas. 25,000 watts / ((3.14159*20* 0.3048*20*0.348) * 1,000 watts) is equal to 21.414%.

  • Robert is probly vested in solar troughs, towers or PV. Or fossil fuels. That’s just how humans (Americans) work. We seem to be willing to do anything to each other for money. Like lie, or call other people liars.

    This seems like fantastic way to get Detroit back into production. Something for after cash for clunkers. I wonder what the lifetime is on these units. How long will a Stirling engine run for? Mirror degradation?

  • Robert is probly vested in solar troughs, towers or PV. Or fossil fuels. That’s just how humans (Americans) work. We seem to be willing to do anything to each other for money. Like lie, or call other people liars.

    This seems like fantastic way to get Detroit back into production. Something for after cash for clunkers. I wonder what the lifetime is on these units. How long will a Stirling engine run for? Mirror degradation?

  • nice article. but probably when they are on the market in 2010. There already be better ones.

  • nice article. but probably when they are on the market in 2010. There already be better ones.

  • Kisabuli

    Robert says that the efficiency is only 18.5% without showing how he arrives at this figure. Other PV systems report is the low teens, so why would this not be more efficient. This system also uses the least amount of land when compared to other CSPs.

  • Kisabuli

    Robert says that the efficiency is only 18.5% without showing how he arrives at this figure. Other PV systems report is the low teens, so why would this not be more efficient. This system also uses the least amount of land when compared to other CSPs.

  • Robert- Sandia National Laboratories did the math in January, 2008. Not sure where you get your numbers, but I’m going with Sandia.

  • Robert- Sandia National Laboratories did the math in January, 2008. Not sure where you get your numbers, but I’m going with Sandia.

  • rwilliams1961

    This is pretty remarkable. I just checked the average output of nuclear plants, and the TX and CA installs make the grade. Next, battery technology to get us off gas and onto the sun.

  • rwilliams1961

    This is pretty remarkable. I just checked the average output of nuclear plants, and the TX and CA installs make the grade. Next, battery technology to get us off gas and onto the sun.

  • Robert

    If you do the math, this thing is only about 18.5% efficient. That’s definitely not “the most efficient solar technology.” The headline is a lie.

  • Robert

    If you do the math, this thing is only about 18.5% efficient. That’s definitely not “the most efficient solar technology.” The headline is a lie.

    • Vipen Mahajan

      Dec 2011 . What i the update. I have been studying Open Source ecology, i.e no patents/licenses etc. of a 40 sq meter, solar panels , made of smaller mirrors, which track the sun,, by hand, and can be made in a rural workshop, in developing countries. Approx cost Rs 150,000 (approx US$ 4000). Couple with a 3-5 HP Stirling engine, (cost approx Rs 300,000), i.e. about US$12,000 for a 3 kw, electrical power output. With hot water of about 5-10 KWe heat equivalent for heating etc.

      We are working on the details, designs etc. International cooperation/collaboration welcome.

      • Anonymous

        3 kW system for US$12,000.

        Currently China is shipping solar panels for about $1 per watt. (Apparently for less than $1/W.)

        A 3 kW PV system would cost $3,000 + inverter and hardware. Under $5,000 or less than half of the Stirling system.

        It also would have no moving parts and and expected lifespan of 30, 40, 50+ years. Almost no operating expenses.

        You could get almost three times as much output from a PV system. The price of PV has fallen so rapidly that it’s knocking thermal solar out of contention.

        Speaking of rural workshops, Sun Electric is selling “laminates” – solar panels without junction boxes and frames for $0.58/watt. Gluing on a junction box, soldering a couple of wires, and building a simple frame is something that requires little equipment and could be done in a basic workshop.

        $12,000 would buy over 20 kW of solar.

Back to Top ↑