Free energy

Solar dish collectors take the immense power of the sun, over the area of a dish, and concentrate that energy by means of reflectors to a central point.

At the end of 2004, Sandia National Laboratory announced that they were working with Stirling Energy Systems to build and test a six-dish array. These six dishes would be capable of producing

150 kW of power during the day, enough to power 40 homes.

Each dish comprises 82 individual mirrors all focused to a single central point (Figure 8-15). This causes a massive amount of heat to be generated at that point which is used to drive a Stirling engine. The Stirling engine produces mechanical movement, which is converted to electrical energy by a conventional generator arrangement (Figure 8-16).

One of the problems inherent with solar dish systems is that they must track the sun—older systems used really heavy mirrors which meant that the motors required to track the sun had to be big and beefy and drew a lot of energy. With this new array of collectors, the mirrors have been designed with a honeycomb structure so they are strong, and yet very light indeed.

This is said to be the largest array of solar dishes in the world, but big plans are afoot. Eventually, when the technology is fully proven, massive arrays of 20,000 units are imagined filling vast fields and plains—producing free energy from the sun (Figure 8-17).

Figure 8-16 10 kW solar dish Stirling engine water pump. Image courtesy Sandia National Laboratories/ Randy Montoya.
Figure 8-17 Artist's rendering of a field of solar engines. Image courtesy Sandia National Laboratories/ Randy Montoya.

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Project 18: Experiment with Fresnel Lens Concentrators

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