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Low-cost solar collectors provide renewable process heat

By Scott Jenkins |

The first pre-commercial demonstration has started for a system that can provide steam for industrial process heat using solar energy at prices lower than using natural gas. The technology uses solar thermal collectors to generate hot water, air or steam in the range of 100–300°C for a host of unit operations, including steam pasteurization, drying, cleaning, roasting and others. The low-cost solar thermal heat reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). The company Sunvapor Inc. (Livermore, Calif.; www.sunvapor.net) has developed a new method for assembling and installing solar thermal collectors that cuts costs by half compared to existing solar thermal systems. “We have completely re-thought the most critical element of the solar thermal plant — the collectors,” explains Philip Gleckman, president of Sunvapor. “Leveraging existing building construction techniques, Sunvapor uses forest products to support the optical elements of the parabolic trough, rather than the traditional steel,” he says. In this way, the manufacturing and assembly of the collector avoids the need for precision fabricated parts and expensive labor for their assembly. However, to use lumber rather than steel, the company…
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