Southwest Solar Technologies has embarked on a development program for a solar thermal technology that will serve industrial needs for process heat and steam.
Industrial heat accounts for a very large share of global energy usage, with many sectors consuming more thermal energy than electricity in their operations.
The company has identified competitive advantages of solar dish technology in high temperature applications such as manufacturing, food processing, desalination, and industrial and utility boiler augmentation, where the user requires medium to high temperature heat, hot water, wet or dry steam, or steam augmentation.
The system uses a parabolic solar concentrating dish to focus sunlight into a high temperature thermal cavity receiver which heats water or thermal oil to transfer heat to conventional heat exchangers located on the ground.
The system would typically be used to reduce costs by supplementing or displacing another fuel source such as natural gas. One or more dishes can be commissioned depending on user needs.
The compact integrated dish and receiver design gives the technology several advantages over competing designs employing parabolic troughs or flat-plate collectors, because of the system’s higher efficiency, lower energy losses, higher temperatures and smaller footprint of land use.
"This new product development effort utilises the company’s core competencies in our solar dish concentrator designs and structures, thermodynamics and optics. Leveraging our competencies into a diverse product portfolio is the foundation of our business strategy," said Brad Forst, CEO.
In September 2011, the company announced its success in testing its solar turbine using the dish concentrator, receiver technology, and a recuperated Brayton cycle engine using a micro turbine driving a turbo-alternator to produce electricity.
In December 2011, the company demonstrated its concentrating photovoltaic product. The new design utilises currently available multi-junction solar cells combined with innovative approaches to concentrator optics, thermal management, power electronics and ease of manufacturing.
The solar thermal application leverages the company’s solar dish and other core competencies and will be a new addition to its product portfolio.
The company’s product development and testing is conducted at its headquarters and operations facility at Southwest Solar Research Park in Phoenix, Arizona.
[Image courtesy: Brayton Energy.]