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Low-cost solar thermal technology to be coupled with energy storage

By Scott Jenkins |

Sunvapor Inc. (Livermore, Calif.; www.sunvapor.net) was awarded a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE; Washington, D.C.; www.energy.gov) last month to scale up its Green Parabolic Trough Collector, a solar thermal technology that cuts construction costs by half compared to existing solar thermal systems. The new grant builds on the success of the prototype system (Chem. Eng. June 2017, p. 7; www.chemengonline.com/low-cost-solar-collectors-provide-renewable-process-heat). The Sunvapor collectors use a patented low-cost spaceframe structure built from lumber instead of steel to support the parabolic mirrors, and an advanced alignment process to maintain the accuracy of the parabolic assembly. For the new project, the solar collectors will generate 150-psi saturated steam for an industrial food-production process. The solar collectors will be coupled with a thermal-energy storage technology that will allow steam generation at times of low or no sunlight. Sunvapor is working with the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL; Golden, Colo.; www.nrel.gov) on the storage solution. It is based on a set of phase-change materials (PCMs) that are specifically chosen for high latent heat, a melting point tuned for the steam pressure,…
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