Concentrating Solar Power NANOGEN develops portable concentrating solar power system that fits in shipping containers

Published on February 19th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


Go-Anywhere Solar Power Fits in Standard Shipping Containers

February 19th, 2011 by  

NANOGEN develops portable concentrating solar power system that fits in shipping containersThe same concentrating solar power systems used for massive utility-scale solar arrays can now be installed practically anywhere – or at least, anywhere that it’s possible to ship a standard steel container. A company called NANOGEN has developed the concentrating technology into modular components, which the company claims can be set up within 48 hours by only two workers. While clearly not the answer for every energy problem, the concept does open up some interesting possibilities.

Portable Solar Power for Disaster Relief

Solar power has been in use for many years at remote locations like oil fields (ironic, right?), so it’s not a stretch of the imagination to adapt it for disaster relief, and that’s the purpose for which NANOGEN originally designed its system. The advantages over fossil fuels are obvious: no noisy generators spewing pollution into the air where survivors are gathering, no clogging of roads with fuel deliveries, no risk of fuel spills, fires or explosions, and little risk of theft. To keep things even more simple, NANOGEN designed its concentrating solar power system to function without tracking motors, reducing the chance of a malfunction.

Portable Solar Power for Anything

NANOGEN is not the only company adapting solar energy to disaster relief (another company has developed flexible solar panels that form portable tents), but they’re pretty far ahead of pack in terms of size. The company’s portable modular system can scale up to 1 megawatt and it also offers a fixed system that scales up to 10 megawatts. That’s where the potentials start to open up. The company notes that it has fielded inquiries that cover a wide range of relatively large-scale uses including backup power for buildings and military facilities (the Air Force is already developing its own solar-in-a-shipping-container, by the way). Large-scale portable solar power could eventually replace a good deal of generating equipment that is currently run on fossil fuels. A large-scale portable system could also be used to power remote construction sites or remediation equipment at off-grid Superfund sites, and it could dovetail with the EPA’s new green jobs/site reclamation program, RE-Powering America’s Land.

Image: Shipping containers by Alan Miles NYC on

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • I must say that I doubt this would work. For one, solar energy is expensive enough to produce, making it portable such as this system is quite a stretch.

  • Lee

    This is very cool. One area solar has never been able to match oil is temporary remote applications. This is an important step in the right direction.

  • I really love the idea of creating homes from shipping containers. Affordable, creative and eco-friendly.

    To think that thousands and thousands of cargo containers are wasting away near almost every major port and could be used to provide cheap affordable living for the homeless. We could change the future of living with these mighty containers.

  • chris petersen

    I would do some more investigating on this. The company’s website is sketchy at best. Very little meat in the overview and terrible pictures of the CSP to collect the sun’s rays.

    • Tina Casey

      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. To clarify, the post doesn’t endorse any product or company.

  • Another excellent application for the not so humble standardized shipping container !

    Mobile data centers, homes and office buildings even portable prison cells and now portable solar power generation – truly amazing.

    These humble boxes must truly be one of the most versatile inventions of the last 60 years.

    • Tina Casey

      Readers, if you’re into shipping containers, the comment from “Shipping Container Homes” came from this website: Lots of neat visuals. If you’re into shipping containers.

      • David Anderson

        Oh, I AM 🙂

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