Evolution Overview

Over the next 5 to 10 years, only evolutionary advances are expected. The economic viability of dish/engin e technology will be greatly enhanced if an engine capable of being "solarized" (i.e., integrated with solar energy) i s introduced for another application. The best candidates are the STM 4-120 and the Kockums 4-95 kinematic Stirlin g engines for hybrid vehicles and industrial generators, and the industrial gas turbine/generators. Assuming one of these engines becomes commercial, then commercialization of dish/engine systems at some level becomes likely. With th e costs and risks of the critical power conversion unit significantly reduced, only the concentrator, receiver, and controls would remain as issues. Given the operational experience and demonstrated durability and reliability of the remaining solar components, as well as the cost and performance capabilities of dish/engine technology, commercialization ma y appear attractive to some developers and investors. The modularity of dish/engine systems will help facilitate thei r introduction. Developers can evaluate prototype systems without the risks associated with multi-megawatt installations.

The commercialization of power towers and, therefore, heliostats (constructed of shared solar components), along with the introduction of a solarizable engine, would essentially guarantee a sizable and robust dish/engine industry. Th e added manufacturing volumes provided by such a scenario for the related concentrator drives, mirror, structural, an d control components would significantly reduce costs and provide an attractive low-cost solar product that will compete in the 25 kWe to 50 MWe power market.

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