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Sandia, Stirling Energy Systems set new world record for solar-to-grid conversion efficiency Answered

31.25 percent efficiency rate topples 1984 record

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --On a perfect New Mexico winter day -- with the sky almost 10 percent brighter than usual -- Sandia National Laboratories and Stirling Energy Systems (SES) set a new solar-to-grid system conversion efficiency record by achieving a 31.25 percent net efficiency rate. The old 1984 record of 29.4 percent was toppled Jan. 31 on SES's "Serial #3" solar dish Stirling system at Sandia's National Solar Thermal Test Facility.

The conversion efficiency is calculated by measuring the net energy delivered to the grid and dividing it by the solar energy hitting the dish mirrors. Auxiliary loads, such as water pumps, computers and tracking motors, are accounted for in the net power measurement.

"Gaining two whole points of conversion efficiency in this type of system is phenomenal," says Bruce Osborn, SES president and CEO. "This is a significant advancement that takes our dish engine systems well beyond the capacities of any other solar dish collectors and one step closer to commercializing an affordable system."

Serial #3 was erected in May 2005 as part of a prototype six-dish model power plant at the Solar Thermal Test Facility that produces up to 150 kilowatts (kW) of grid-ready electrical power during the day. Each dish unit consists of 82 mirrors formed in a dish shape to focus the light to an intense beam.

The solar dish generates electricity by focusing the sun's rays onto a receiver, which transmits the heat energy to a Stirling engine. The engine is a sealed system filled with hydrogen. As the gas heats and cools, its pressure rises and falls. The change in pressure drives the pistons inside the engine, producing mechanical power, which in turn drives a generator and makes electricity.

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These are awesome! I recently moved to New Mexico and I'm planning on making solar heating for my house. Instructable anyone?

No, I meant the one using the giant dishes

just look or a old big ugly sat TV dish and glue on lots of mirrors ...

or lots of cds (i was going to make one with my friend, but I didn't have time)

I knew it A.O.L was planning on taking over the world with death rays ....

hehe, they even outsource it to ibles members

Yep- I made a death ray with a couple of friends by taping a lot of foil onto an old satellite dish. We were quite slapdash with making it, and it was a slightly cloudy english day so the focus was only "ow ouch warm" not "instantaneous burnination hot", but it only took us about 10 minutes.

Here's a thought- this site shows the process of polishing an anodized aluminium case to mirror finish with a few simple tools and some metal polish. If someone did this to a satellite dish it would officially be the coolest parabolic reflector ever.

If you are using mirrors you don't need a dish, you can attach them to a flat board at varying angles like a Fresnel lens- that approach just needs a board, mirrors, spacers and glue.

Damn, thats a nice computer! I might have to try that method

Bravo! Stirlings seem to be really making a comeback - they're all over ebay as a novelty, but I've seen a hand-made one drive a (model) car from the energy of a tea-light. Maybe somebody ought to come up with a system that turns waste household heat into electricity (charges batteries from the warmth of the heating vent etc.)

Whispergen, is suppose to be selling a boiler/ sterling Co-Generation system for household usage in Europe next year, it's a boiler and a 1 kW sterling generator setup and the heat for the sterling is just the waste gases/ heat being exhausted outside, this unit only generates power while you are heating your home but it does remove some load from the gird... And Honda is getting into Co-Generation as well but not with a sterling engine, but a internal combustion engine and it runs only when there is a heating demand, but it's output is in the several kilo watt area. I don;t know what the efficiency is like compared to a sterling but it's a start I guess...

You could probably run a stirling engine or some kind of heat based motor of the convection currents between the top floor of a house and the attic, especially in winter in an old house. In summer it would run backwards.

Beautiful! Sky, clouds, mirrors, tech...aaaaaaahhh!

I <3 renewable energy accomplishments.