Solar Hydrogen Energy Corporation (SHEC) Labs has launched themselves into first place for the world’s most efficient solar thermal technology developed so far. They’ve created a solar concentrator and receiver that can concentrate solar energy up to 5,000 times the usual intensity of sunlight hitting the earth, making the sunlight nearly as hot as the surface from which it arrives. The 11,000° F heat can melt metal instantly if the concentrated sunlight is focused on it. This tops MITs solar concentration project that can concentrate light to 1,000 times its intensity, but this system uses cheap, widely available materials.
SHEC Labs uses one-foot-square parabolic mirrors held in a frame. A cylindrical tube with an aperture is painted with a highly reflective coating and acts as a solar receiver. Sunlight entering the aperture bounces around, with 95% of the energy eventually being absorbed by the tube.
If built at commercial scale SHEC Labs believes they can reach concentrations of 11,000 to 16,000 times the intensity of the sun’s light. With this kind of solar thermal power generated, the applications are widespread – from heating to water distillation, to converting methane from landfills into hydrogen and syngas, as well as hythane to run vehicles that use natural gas. While the technology has been a long time coming, it is getting utilized pretty quickly – a landfill in Texans is already implementing the system and will be able to fuel 5,000 vehicles on its fleet per year. Additionally, SHEC has cinched a deal to generate 3 GW to be divided among 6 solar farms beginning overseas this year. While the system is costly to get up and running, pay back is expected in 5 to 15 years – pretty darn quick, relatively speaking.
Considering the growing interest in solar thermal projects, from the DOE investing $60 million on developing solar thermal technologies to Ausra opening a new factory to produce parts for their solar thermal projects, it seems likely that this new breakthrough has guns and will travel.
written by ryanknapper, July 25, 2008
written by Geopilot, July 25, 2008
written by Total Solar Energy, September 15, 2008
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