Solarthermal plants have been using solar concentrators for quite some time.Simply put, these systems focus the energy of the sun at one point inorder to drive more heat, which powers a turbine to generateelectricity. Stirling Energy Systems and Tessera Solar have unveiled new designs of their SunCatcher system, which reportedly offers better efficiency at a low cost.
Thecompanies have developed four new models, which unlike previouslydesigned models, are in the form of parabolic dishes. The SunCatchersbeing used today are capable of producing up to 15KW of grid-readyelectrical power, but this new design can offer more because of itsoverall shape and the change in materials that are used to constructit.
The system is based on the use of precision mirrors thatare attached to a parabolic dish. This dish focuses light onto areceiver, which transmit the heat to a Stirling engine. The engine isfilled with hydrogen and utilizes the change in temperature of the gasto drive a turbine, which generates electricity.
Thisnext-gen SunCatcher is about 5000lbs lighter than the original systemand utilizes just 40 mirrors instead of the 80 that were usedpreviously. This new technology will be deployed in some of the world’slargest solar plants in Southern California, which expect to produceabout 1000MW of green electricity by 2012.