Sun 8 May 2011
Posted by Marcin
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a breakthrough on the Solar Turbine project. We are adopting the Solar Fire concentrator technology as our official solar energy platform. OSE and Solar Fire are entering into partnership – with a single purpose of creating a state-of-art, replicable, open source platform for solar concentrator power applied to electricity, space heating, and process heat. Prototyping done already by Solar Fire indicates that electrical production can be attained by such a system at a $0.5-$1 system materials cost per peak watt – if combined with a modern steam engine as the heat engine. This is about a factor of 10 lower than photovoltaics. See Eerik Wissenz, Solar Fire project leader, introduce the latest successful prototype of 32 square meter solar capture area:
Solar Fire is now officially adopted as the OSE pathway to the Solar Concentrator – one of the 50 technologies of the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS). Eerik is now the Project Leader for the OSE Solar Concentrator development. Solar Fire is bringing 3 key developments:
- Simple focusing mechanism for the individual mirrors (as seen in video)
- Computational program (open source) to calculate mirror alignment
- Low cost collector and reflector structure
OSE is bringing 3 key contributions to the table:
- Development of the modern steam engine as the heat engine for the solar concentrator, which is one of the 50 GVCS technologies
- Development of a solar tracking and mirror cleaning system for full automation of the device, as well as development of measures to protect against hail and heavy winds
- Media exposure to promote this idea worth spreading
We will be adding the solar concentrator to our Kickstarter offering on the Open Source Microfactory, which we are planning to deploy on June 1, 2011. Thus, it will be the Solar Microfactory. Now if we put the Distributive Enterprise concept into the core of our Kickstarter offering – then we might have to extend our offering to the Mobile Solar Microfactory- with an early release of the Civilization Starter Kit DVD v0.1 as one of the rewards. We are planning to build the Solar Fire P32 (as in the above video) with a modern steam engine in September, 2011 – during the first, major, one-month long Factor e Farm Convergence of 2011. If you have been following our work on the solar concentrator system – such as the initial prototyping work at Factor e Farm, you will note that Solar Fire is a departure from our former strategy of the Linear Solar Concentrator. The big point of the Linear Fresnel Type Concentrator, as discussed in Factor e Live Distillations – Part 8 – Solar Power Generator – is that the linear concentrator is inherently scalable. One can scale a linear array infinitely by lengthening it – thereby meeting the scalability criterion of OSE Specifications for Distributive Enterprise. The problem with dish concentrator systems is that they are not scalable. Structural costs become prohibitive for increasing dish size. It turns out that the Solar Fire system addresses the scalability question very well for 2 reasons. First – the Solar Fire system is a low-to-the-ground, flat array of mirrors – with inherently low structural costs (wind-loading is addressed by the low-to-the-ground profile). Second, the solar receiver is an extremely simple, low cost design: essentially an empty drum with a rounded front face – at a cost of about $100 in materials for the P32 system. To scale power, individual arrays with individual solar receivers can be replicated. For higher power applications, the receivers are simply linked via insulated interconnections. Because of the low cost of the receiver, the system cost scales linearly with added usable power – so the system is infinitely scalable. This means that a given community can build up its power-generating infrastructure on-demand, as it grows. So Eerik is a smart guy, and he has me totally convinced on the scalability issue – by his cost structure data for the system. We are expecting to put the entire P32 – with receiver for $2k in materials, and $2.5k in materials including a 5 hp uniflow, bump-valve steam engine. This is a psychological relief for me – as I admittedly had no practical clue as far as how to produce an effective, low-cost receiver if we went with the linear concentrator system. Industry standards show that this is possible, but that would have been an arduous up-hill battle if we were to succeed. At the same time – I can’t see any way to come up with a linear collector anywhere as low in cost as the Solar Fire point-receiver. We are building on the work of the Whitecliffs Solar Power Station – which has demonstrated exactly the simple bump-valve uniflow steam engine that we are pursuing in our prototype. They have run the steam engine successfully for thousands of hours, and attained 21% solar conversion efficiency to electricity. The parameters for the Solar Fire P32 indicate that we should attain a 15% efficiency with our system if we use the bump-valve uniflow steam engine design. This means 3kW peak of electrical power! We are enlisting the peer review of the Steam Automobile Club of America – a goldmine of talent. Ladies and gentleman – to sum up – solar power is coming to Factor e Farm this September – a welcome breakthrough, ahead of schedule. It looks like we’ll be testing our first steam engines in real life with the solar concentrator – which has the advantage of a ‘clean burn’ that does not require cleaning of the steam generator. This means no maintenance requirements, as opposed to the case when chemical fuels are burned. We have retired our 1-cylinder Lister diesel engine years ago when we received a donation of 2kW peak solar cells from Ersol. I’ve been anticipating the moment of going from solar panels (photovoltaic power) to solar concentrators (solar concentrator electric power) for years now. The former is still an eco-elite privilege, while the latter has the capacity to provide Power to the People. If you look at this issue from general principles – semiconductors will never be as cheap as mirrors. I stand in awe as the countdown to September continues, as we may break through the smoke and mirrors surrounding energy access for humanity. Share this far and wide and tweet this. This could be major news. It’s open source, so it may be coming to your rooftop or backyard next.
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