Tessera Solar and Stirling Energy Systems (SES) have unveiled new designs of their SunCatcher system at Sandia National Laboratories’ National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF). The new system offers better efficiency at a low cost being used in commercial-scale deployments of the units beginning in 2010.
“The four new dishes are the next-generation model of the original SunCatcher system. Six first-generation SunCatchers built over the past several years at the NSTTF have been producing up to 150KW [kilowatts] of grid-ready electrical power during the day,” says Chuck Andraka, the lead Sandia project engineer. “Every part of the new system has been upgraded to allow for a high rate of production and cost reduction.”
SunCatcher is based on the use of precision mirrors that are attached to a parabolic dish. This dish focuses light onto a receiver, which transmit the heat to a Stirling engine. The engine is filled with hydrogen and utilizes the change in temperature of the gas to drive a turbine, which generates electric energy.
This new system is about 5,000 pounds lighter than the original system and utilizes just 40 mirrors instead of the 80 that were used previously. SunCatcher will produce about 1000MW of green energy by 2012, being deployed in some of the world’s largest solar plants in Southern California.
“The new design of the SunCatcher represents more than a decade of innovative engineering and validation testing, making it ready for commercialization,” says Steve Cowman, Stirling Energy Systems CEO. “By utilizing the automotive supply chain to manufacture the SunCatcher, we’re leveraging the talents of an industry that has refined high-volume production through an assembly line process. More than 90 percent of the SunCatcher components will be manufactured in North America.”