Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tech Watch

Cool Energy
, a small company from Boulder, is developing a very flexible solar energy collection system. It consists of solar thermal collectors, hot water and space heater, a Stirling engine for electricity generation and a control system to optimize usage. It seems like it could allow solar power to become economical in more regions across the globe, providing heating in the winter and electricity for cooling in the summer. Here is a flow chart schematic:

Combined heat and power (CHP) technologies are not new, but Cool Energy claims to have provided some innovation to increase efficiency.

The main innovation to the SolarFlow System is Cool Energy’s proprietary SolarHeart™ Engine, a low temperature Stirling engine which incorporates advanced materials to most cost effectively convert alternate heat sources to electricity. The SolarHeart Engine also has applications with geothermal and waste heat sources of low to mid temperature heat.

The SolarSmart Controller™ uses intelligent control algorithms to maximize owner savings based on the temperature, time of day, weather, season, etc. It also factors in the prices of electricity and heat to determine which energy source will provide the most value to your home or business at any given time of the day or year.

Cool Energy is currently building its third-generation engine prototype for a pilot SolarFlow installation planned for the summer of 2009 at a public facility in Boulder, Colorado. More details on this installation will be made public soon.
This will be an interesting development to watch. Any technology that can compete head to head with conventional fossil fuels will have the ability to make a large impact in the future.

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