The 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 flickr.com.