Sustainability Spotlight: Concentrating Hard on Solar Power
At the Concentrated Solar Power Summit recently held in San Francisco, 5 companies were the recipients of the 1st CSP Today Industry Awards. As the demand for alternative energy increases, it’s these companies, and their dedication to innovation, that will fuel the future. On a lighter note (no pun intended), if you are entering the solar energy business, a company name that starts with ‘S’ seems to be the ticket.
The Best Commercialized Technological Innovation Award was given to Stirling Energy Systems (SES) for their SunCatcher™ technology. SunCatcher™ is a 25kW solar power system consisting of a dish-concentrator that tracks and focuses solar energy onto a power conversion unit to convert solar energy into grid-quality electricity. SunCatcher™ has several unique and differentiating attributes including zero water use for power production, a modular and scalable system architecture, and terrain flexibility.
Solar Trust of America’s HelioTrough parabolic trough collector received the Innovation Award. This next-generation collector was recognized for its innovative design, increased thermal output efficiency, and reduced component costs. The newest HelioTrough collector is one third larger than its predecessor and requires fewer collectors to produce the same amount of energy. The optimized structure geometry reduces the investments cost by nearly 20 percent in comparison to current collector designs.
The award for Best Applied Research and Development in Concentrated Solar Power Technology went to SCHOTT Solar for their new generation of receiver technology that boosts the efficiency and reduces the cost of electricity generation in large-scale solar power plants. Evacuated receiver tubes are key components of CSP plants and play a major role in determining their overall efficiency. SCHOTT Solar developed a new coating for the receiver’s steel tube that can absorb more than 95% of the sunlight, keeps emissivity to less than 10% and shows temperature stability beyond 400°C.
The engineering company SENER, based in San Francisco, received an award in the Best Increased Dispatchability solution category. SENER carried off this award thanks to its molten salt heat storage system, which enables plants with SENER technology to continue to produce power when there is no sunlight, either at night or when solar radiation is very weak. This system significantly increases the plant yield of plants without thermal storage and guarantees a continuous supply of electricity, rendering it possible to adapt output to the demand for power.
Siemens Energy won the award for CSP Competitiveness. Two key innovations were the decisive factors: improved solar field optical efficiency, thanks to the new UVAC 2010 solar receiver, and the use of industrialized manufacturing techniques to support the construction of solar fields for parabolic trough power plants.