Saturday, July 23, 2005

A Real-Deal Solar Concentrator?

From WorldChanging, a report on the Pyron solar concentrator system, an innovation that may just make competitively-priced solar energy a reality. What makes this invention by John and Inge Laing different from other recent developments in solar technology? According to Jamais,
They've actually built the thing. And it works.

Moreover, the National Renewable Energy Lab has measured and confirmed that the Pyron prototype, measuring 23 feet in diameter, generates 6.6 kilowatts. The reason that it can be so efficient (standard PV panels would take up much more space, up to 10x as much, to put out that much power) is that the Boeing-Spectralab solar cells are over 37% efficient -- more than double typical PV cells -- and reach that maximum efficiency when hit with "400 sunpower" worth of concentrated light. The real innovation, however, is the water-based cooling system for the superheated solar array.

The conversation that follows this article is interesting, also, noting the need for consideration of local conditions for using almost any solar technology (and Jamais does mention the use of such systems in a larger plan of distributed/decentralized power creation), as well as suggestions for creating economic incentives to further the development of solar invention (a $10 million prize -- worked for the X prize challenge to develop privately-funded space travel). Let's remain skeptical, but also recognize that the Pyron concept has real possibilities.

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