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Beam-Down Solar Concentrator Dramatically Reduces Costs at Price of Efficiency


By seeking to cut costs with the production of energy and building the necessary infrastructure, scientists from the Masdar Institute along with their colleagues from the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Cosmo Oil (?) are studying how to convert old, expensive solar concentrator technology to a new and more flexible one: The Beam Down Project.

A classic solar concentrator, like that built by BrightSource Energy or eSolar, consists of ground-disposed mirrors that gather the Sun’s energy and focus it towards the edge of a central tower, where water is super-heated, driving a steam turbine – the old way. Now that is expensive. Masdar’s new solar concentrator moves the water tanks to the ground, and adds a set of 48 independent mirrors that re-channel the light onto the ground water tank, heating it to around 500 degrees Celsius.

This modification reduces the efficiency from 20+ percent to 15-19 percent. The technology is still in its “early” stages, the tank hasn’t been installed yet, and all the figures are theoretical, but there’s space for improvement. Larger towers built this way could generate 50 to 100 megawatts of power, according to Mateo Chiesa, a professor at the Masdar Institute.

Israel also has a monolithic mirror solar concentrator built with the Beam-Down structure, but it’s much more expensive and fragile, since monolithic mirrors are harder to make and they change their shape if exposed to extreme lights. Masdar’s 48 mirrors (acquired from Konica Minolta), on the other hand, are much easier to assemble and aren’t that pretentious, they can be cooled easier.

We’ll keep you updated on the Masdar Beam-Down solar concentrator experiment, as soon as they hit the buttons.

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  1. That’s a simple yet innovative development for ground-disposed mirror collectors that I’m surprised no one had ever thought of previously. I especially like how burying the tank creates a natural layer of insulation for the super-heated water without requiring a huge investment in additional insulators.


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