Mini “Solar In A Box” Featured In New Hawaii Accelerator Program

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Here’s a new twist on concentrating solar power: a complete CSP system that fits tidily into shipping containers for easy transportability. The new system is from a startup called Edisun Heliostats, which just made a very competitive cut to join the Energy Excelator umbrella. Located in Hawaii, the clean tech incubator is supported by the U.S. Navy among other partners.

concentrating solar power Hawaii

Shipping Containers Rule

We were just mentioning that shipping containers are one of our favorite clean tech topics, partly because transportability is a key factor for off-grid solar and wind energy harvesting.

Generally speaking, the farther off grid you go, the tighter your infrastructure scale, making it impossible to navigate huge solar and wind components through twisting roads, low underpasses, and narrow tunnels.

Getting your components to fit into a shipping container is a major victory. You can see that at play in Lockheed Martin’s transportable solar array, Samsung’s solar powered shipping container classrooms,  and GE’s “Space Frame” modular wind turbine tower.

Concentrating Solar Power Rules

A few years ago the consensus was that the market for concentrating solar power was evaporating, partly due to the extra complexity and expense of such systems. However, throw energy storage into the mix and you have a whole new ballgame in the form of reliable, 24-7 power.

Here in the US the Energy Department has continued to pour new funding into concentrating solar power R&D. Even without energy storage, CSP appears to have a future in some regions. One good example is the Shams 1 concentrating solar power plant in Abu Dhabi. After two years of operation the system has been outperforming expectations despite the harsh desert conditions, suggesting that CSP can replace new gas powered “peaker” plants during daytime high-use hours.

Concentrating Solar Power In A Shipping Container

That brings us to Edisun Heliostats. Leveraging its experience working with other leading clean tech companies, Edisun is “completely rethinking” CSP technology to come up with a relatively inexpensive, small scale solution.

The system includes a particle bed — rocks — for built-in storage, which according to the company is less complicated than conventional molten salt storage while still providing the potential for 24-7 operation. If the Stone Age strategy surprises you, we just took a look at an experimental solar energy storage system based on similar passive principles, deploying a concrete storage system to reduce costs.

Edisun has also designed its heliostats (the special mirrors that concentrate sunlight) to ratchet into a protective position during high, potentially damaging winds. That reduces the need to engage in more costly engineering for wind resistance.

The company’s soup-to-nuts cost cutting approach also includes cutting manufacturing costs along with the aforementioned shipping containers for streamlined transportability.

Hawaii’s Energy Excelerator

Along with our sister site, CleanTechnica took note of the Energy Excelerator when it kicked off in Hawaii back in 2013, with a hefty $30 million in funding from the U.S. Energy Department and the Navy as well as the State of Hawaii. The incubator’s corporate sponsors are GE and DENSO among others, so startups making the cut deserve a second look.

Edisun is part of the Energy Excelerator’s 2016 cohort round, selected from “hundreds” of applicants around the US. As a group, the new cohort encompasses a range of clean tech solutions. Here’s the rest of the list from the Excelerator press release:

Carbon Lighthouse: software for low cost, whole‐building energy efficiency.

PlotWatt: cloud-based platform enabling customers to act on data from smart meters.

Pono Home: comprehensive “greening service” for energy and water efficient homes.

T-REX: risk analysis software to encourage renewable energy investment by large financial institutions.

Autowatts: “instant” online solar for residential property owners

SheerWind: low-cost wind systems for populated areas

Blue Pillar: centralized energy management for single and multi-site facilities

Geli: software for energy storage and microgrid systems

UtilityAPI: software for new energy companies

WaySine: LED and LCD signs for transit customers

GOmeter: water usage monitoring and conservation without the need for smart meter upgrades

WaterSmart Software: data analysis for water utility managers

The new group also includes Lastwall, a cloud-based cyber security platform. While not exclusively related to clean tech, when you consider the extensive data collection involved in smart metering alone, advanced cyber security is critical for the development of the clean tech sector.

As for the connection between Hawaii’s clean tech sector and the U.S. Navy, we’ve spilled a lot of ink on the Navy’s aggressive stance on climate change and clean technology. Its footprint in Hawaii includes solar early adopter Pearl Harbor among other key facilities, including the nation’s only shared wave energy test bed.

That makes the Navy a perfect partner for Hawaii, an island state with critical strategic importance to the U.S. The high cost of imported fuel and its exposure to the extreme effects of climate change has put Hawaii in the vanguard position for transitioning the US into clean power, and just last summer the state upped the ante with a new law requiring 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

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Image (screenshot): via Edisun Heliostats.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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