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Publication Title | Solar Dish-Engine Systems

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Solar Dish-Engine Systems

Solar dish-engine systems are currently being developed for application in high-value remote power, distributed generation, green power, and other grid-connected markets.

The Boeing/Stirling Energy Systems DECC project will evaluate the performance of the "critical" parts of the Stirling engine and develop the next- generation of the 25 kW Dish-Stirling System.

What is a Solar Dish-Engine System?

A Solar Dish-Engine System is an electric generator that “burns” sunlight instead of gas or coal to produce electricity. The major parts of a system are the solar concentrator and the power conversion unit. Descriptions of these subsystems and how they operate are presented below.

dish structure must track the sun continuously to reflect the beam into the thermal receiver.


includes the thermal receiver and the engine/ generator. The thermal receiver is the interface between the dish and the engine/generator. It absorbs the concentrated beam of solar energy, converts it to heat, and transfers the heat to the engine/generator. A thermal receiver can be a bank of tubes with a cooling fluid, usually hydrogen or helium, which is the heat transfer medium and also the working fluid for an

engine. Alternate thermal receivers are heat pipes wherein the boiling and condensing of an intermedi- ate fluid is used to transfer the heat to the engine.

The engine/generator

system is the subsystem that takes the heat from the thermal receiver and

uses it to produce electricity. The most common type of heat engine used in dish-engine systems is the Stirling engine. A Stirling engine uses heat provided from an external source (like the sun) to move pistons and make mechanical power,

THE DISH, which is more specifically referred to as a concentrator, is the primary solar component of the system. It collects the solar energy coming directly from the sun (the solar energy that causes you

to cast a shadow) and

concentrates or focuses it on

a small area. The resultant

solar beam has all of the

power of the sunlight hitting

the dish but is concentrated

in a small area so that it

can be more efficiently used. Glass mirrors reflect ~ 92% of the sunlight that hits them, are relatively inexpensive, can be cleaned, and last a long time in the outdoor environ- ment, making them an excellent choice for the reflective surface of a solar concentrator. The

Solar dish-engine systems convert sunlight into electricity at very high efficiencies–higher than any other solar technology. The current record is held by a Solar Dish-Stirling system that converted 29.4% of the incident sunlight into electrical power.

This Science Application International Corporation/ STM Power Inc. 25 kW Dish-Stirling System is operating at a Salt River Project site in Phoenix, AZ.

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