Last week I wrote about three small companies and their alternative mirror configurations to the parabolic trough: e-Solar and their modular power towers, Wizard Power and their Big Dishes and Ausra and their Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector. Many other technological advances in the world of concentrating solar power are currently being demonstrated, and today I want to write about three more.
Archimede, a 5 Mw parabolic trough power plant, opened July 2010, in Sicily. What is exciting is that it is the first to use molten salt as a heat transfer fluid in the central absorber tube, thus enabling hotter operating temperatures and therefore greater turbine efficiency. Archimede, like many systems uses salt as a thermal store, allowing electricity generation to continue when the sun is not shining. For more on this see Chris Goodall’s excellent Carbon Commentary. See Here for details.
Maricopa, a 1.5 Mw Stirling Dish solar power project opened in January 2010, outside Phoenix, Arizona. Robert Stirling invented the Stirling engine in 1816, and it’s had many uses since then, and for the last twenty years Stirling Energy Systems have been developing it as a way of directly turning the suns heat into power. Their SunCatcher 38 foot diameter dishes each generate 25 Kw, and at Maricopa they use 60 dishes to generate 1.5 Mw.
Victor Valley Collage, at Victorville, near Los Angeles opened a 1 Mw concentrating photovoltaic power plant, in May 2010. This uses 122 x 8.4 Kw dual tracking solar panels, each uses mirrors and lenses to concentrate sunlight onto photovoltaic cells. This system was designed and built by SolFocus, but a number of other mainly small Californian companies are racing to get a foothold in this new and rapidly expanding technology. Look at this article for details.
Three more innovative technologies from the rapidly developing world of concentrating solar power: so far all small projects but offering exciting possibilities for rapid expansion.