The use of Stirling engines for utility‐scale solar thermal electric has been studied for years, with companies such as Tessera Solar and Stirling Energy Systems (SES) even developing commercial-scale plants. When Tessera Solar’s Maricopa plant opened in January of last year, it was hailed by Bob Lukefahr, the company’s CEO, as “a significant milestone for the solar industry…” and “…a genuine breakthrough in solar energy”, demonstrating that Stirling dish solar power is now ready for commercial deployment in the US and around the world.
Indeed, recent advances in Stirling engine development certainly seem to have solved the initial problems of reliability, and as Titan Tracker points out in its new report, “real track records are available with efficiencies approaching 30%”. In turn, the mirrors used on Stirling trackers have benefitted from technological developments in the industry.
Nonetheless, Titan Tracker warns that there have not been sufficient resources so far to develop high performance solar trackers that contribute to commercial deployment of Stirling, and the lack of economies of scale is inhibiting cost reductions.
In its paper, Titan Tracker does, however, consider that of all CSP technologies (Fresnel, parabolic trough, tower, etc.), “Stirling is the most promising because of its advantages in terms of potential cost savings, scalability, higher efficiency, lower water requirements, reduced land requirements, etc.”
“Currently, the only limits for commercial deployment of Stirling are ‘bankability’ and cost reductions, which are directly related,” says Titan Tracker, which believes its unique proprietary solar tracker on which Stirling dishes can be mounted offers the technical flexibility, robustness, accuracy and lower costs needed to make Stirling dish technology a real alternative to cheaper utility PV.
Titan Tracker ranks among a number of companies such as Concentrix (Germany) and Inspired Tech (USA) that are focusing on the development of new, high fidelity trackers of varying load size to supply the CSP sector’s growing needs.
While Sener’s Soledad Garrido identifies energy consumption, robustness, and accuracy as some of the main challenges faced by tracker developers, Titan Tracker's Commercial Director, Carlos García, stresses costs reductions are critical.
“This can be achieved with certain technologies, but will result in the disappearance of others that are unable to rise to the challenge,” he says.
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