Do It Yourself CSP  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

While large scale solar thermal power will probably remain out of the developing world's price range for some time, the guys at the Factor E Farm Weblog are experimenting with do it yourself CSP power generation - Solar Turbine Convergence Breakthroughs.

n a historic convergence of December, 2008 - Solar Turbine work of OSE merged with a UK linear concentrator development team. Both teams have arrived at essentially the identical design, down to critical details - for a breakthrough, low cost solar concentrator system. Two versions will be field tested - one with steam power, and another with PV power. As it stands, Factor e Farm will adapt and replicate the exsiting prototype. Any necessary sourcing adjustments will be made. We will be building upon 6 years of past work of the UK team, in the true spirit of open source collaboration.

The UK team, led by Ph.D.’s who consulted to leading solar concentrator companies, has verified the OSE prediction that low complexity, flat mirror arrays - which are low to the ground and eliminate costly wind load-bearing structures - are the most cost effective solar concentrator option. The UK team is making similar price predictions and several contributions:

* Low-cost mirror mounting mechanism has been refined
* Electronics and mechanical drive has been worked out for controlling individual mirror slats instead of gangs of slats (the latter is also protected by patent) at a cost of about $5 per drive unit.
* Closed-loop (feedback) controls have been worked out for solar tracking at a cost of $15 for a tracking detector
* Control software has been written

Field testing will be performed in the south of France in 2009, as a joint project between OSE and the UK team. This will mark a historical, side-by-side comparison of two systems - steam engine and PV systems. Both are calculated to be cheaper than coal power. Breakthroughs are expected in both systems, and the OSE team predicts approximately 30% lower system cost for the steam engine version, on a small, 3 kW prototype. Scaling is expected to be favorable for steam power in larger systems. The PV system offers the advantage of being more economical on a small scale (1 kW and under). Modularity is expected in 1-10 kW units.

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