heat2power in Concentrated Solar Power applications

Solar power promises to be one of the key energy technologies for developing countries and for lowering CO2 emissions on a more general scale. Solar power can satisfy many demands of electricity, mechanical power (for example for irrigation), heating and cooling. The two main families of solar power technologies are photovoltaics and thermal energy conversion.

solar heat for power generation
Low cost heat2power engines as an alternative to expensive Stirling engines in Concentrated Solar Power.

Both families are still in development and the market now seams to converge towards central solar power generation with huge arrays of photovoltaic panels, concentrating mirrors (either trough or dish) with Organic Rankine Cycle engines or Stirling engines. This is fine for developed countries where good power grids are available.

However for developing countries the power grids are often in a bad condition and have enormous problems getting power to where it is needed. That is why today a lot of diesel generator sets are being used. Energy is a highly valued item and theft of diesel fuel is not uncommon. Fuel tanks often have to be guarded to ensure continuous power supply. But fuel has also to be transported to the place where it is used and sometimes this can be difficult and costly. Current solutions are often very expensive and put the brake on the economic developement of these countries.

Solar power would not suffer from theft of fuel. Solar power does not require transportation of fuels. Sunshine comes for free for everyone, whether that be in developped or in developping countries.

Energy storage for solar power applications

Because power is needed most of the time and because the sun is not always shining strongly enough there is a requirement for buffering energy. Such a buffer needs to be cost effective and with very little or no maintenance. Photovoltaics convert solar energy directly into electricity which has the inconvenience of costly or impossible buffering: Batteries are very capital intensive and have a discussable life. Hydraulic storage which is the world's most common buffer for power grids is not always possible, especially in countries with a lot of sun.

The convenience of concentrated solar thermal energy is that energy can be buffered as heat with very low capital requirements before being converted into electricity with equipment that is naturally available in most parts of the world. It simply needs thermal inertia that is well insulated. This property makes solar thermal energy conversion very appropriate for solar power in the major part of the world.

heat2power as a very competitive solution

The conversion of solar heat into electricity is currently often done with Rankine Cycle engines and with Stirling engines; sometimes also with Organic Rankine Cycle engines. From various sources we have learned that Organic Rankine Cycles are not the easiest technology to maintenance in developing countries; Stirling engines remain complex and are actually quite heavy (see example1 and example2 with 200 kg for 3,7kW) and expensive. Rankine Cycle engines (steam engines) need cooling for which a lot of water is needed (cooling towers) which is an important inconvenience in dry and sunny countries. The heat2power engine running on solar heat overcomes these inconveniences:

heat2power as a true cost effective alternative to existing solutions

heat2power engines run on air and are thus very easy to operate. Therefore the heat2power engine has become a true alternative to Stirling engines and ORC engines for CSP applications. All considered, this should bring the cost of solar power down compared to existing solutions. The market for such a technology is extremely large and virtually untapped. Additionally, the technology is fully scaleable, the smallest units can be single cylinder 0,5 liter engines. Medium sized heat2power blocks could be based on automotive engine blocks. Large blocks could be based on traditional PowerGen and Marine engines.

Furthermore, since heat2power engines run on external heat they can also be driven by the combustion of biomass or biogas on a secondary air circuit positioned close to the engine. Biomass and biogas are generally well available locally and don't need transportation over long distances. Their storage is also at very low cost. The heat developed by the combustion of biomass or biogas can replace the solar heat during a bad season or complement it if the sun is not intense enough for the required amount of power.

heat2power CSP market development

heat2power seems to be the perfect technological partner for solar power. Therefore we are developing this market with partners in solar concentrating equipment to offer low cost energy solutions for developing countries. We are currently working with Kyoto Energy (http://www.kyoto-energy.com/) to come up with our first product that will be an electric generator of 15 kW including a thermal buffer so that electricity can be generated around the clock. Since a lot of electrical equipement in developing countries is based on mobile power supplies and runs on DC (LED lighting, battery chargers, mobile phone chargers, 12/24V iceboxes, laptop computers) we can directly offer DC output instead of AC output which reduces the cost of an installation even further since no inverter is needed. Because electricity is consumed locally, AC which is normally used to transport electricity over long distances with minimal losses is not required. For larger power outputs AC power will be available as well. This represents a major market potential for traditional power generation equipment suppliers. They are also invited to contact us if they desire to develop in the solar power applications.

The low grade heat that is rejected by the heat2power engine is sufficiently high to be used for air conditioning systems, drying processes and desalination of sea water. The evolution of our products therefore focusses on integrating these functions and here also we have selected potential partners. We also plan to have power outputs available in the range from 10 kW to 300kW.

If you are considering developing decentralized energy production in developing countries, don't hesitate to contact us.

Upcoming conferences:


Past conferences:

INTERSOLAR MUNICH - MAY 27-29, 2009 - Germany
DERBI - June 11-12, 2009 - Perpignan - France

Interesting links related to Concentrated Solar Power:

Desertec UK
Desertec Foundation
CSP Today : News, Events and Business Intelligence for the CSP Industry

Social Networks related to Concentrated Solar Power:

Linked In group - CSP Today - Group of Experts of the Concentrated Solar Thermodynamic Power
Linked In group - Concentrating Solar Power Professionals
Linked In group - Solar energy developments in India
Linked In group - CSP in Italy - Solare Termodinamico in Italia
Linked In group - MENA Solar Network
Desertec Méditerranée Blog
Linked In group - Solar France - France Solaire