Southwest Solar tests turbine

<b>The original plans to build a demonstration plant using the Southwest Solar dish have been delayed due to the downturn in the US energy market.</b><br><br><br><i>Photo: Southwest Solar</i>
The original plans to build a demonstration plant using the Southwest Solar dish have been delayed due to the downturn in the US energy market.

Photo: Southwest Solar

The heat is captured, as with all CSP technologies, via the concentration of sunlight. For this purpose Southwest Solar uses a 320 m2 parabolic mirror, which concentrates the sunlight by a factor of 2000 and focuses it on a receiver. In the receiver, compressed air is superheated and then piped to the turbine. This process is not unusual, and is used by other companies in a similar form. Normally, however, a Stirling engine is then used to produce electricity, whereas here an air based open-cycle turbine is used. As with the Stirling system, this technique does not require water cooling. "The performance of this system gives us confidence that we can achieve significant operational advantages over other concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, such as steam-based trough systems and power towers that require water cooling, and over typical photovoltaic (PV) plants that are intermittent in the nature of their production," said Herb Hayden, Chief Technical Officer of Southwest Solar Technologies. With air as the heat transfer medium, the cost and maintenance work required to replenish the hydrogen fluid in Stirling engines can be saved. In addition, there is also the "option to integrate with compressed air energy storage in markets where large air storage facilities such as salt caverns are available or in potential undersea air storage." explained Herb Hayden.
The turbine test was preceded two years ago by the commissioning of the dish and the receiver test one year before that.

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