Improved Solar Power Dish with Stirling Engine Made by Car Parts Suppliers

stirling suncatcher solar thermal power photo

Photo: Stirling Energy Systems
New and Improved Solar Thermal Collection Dish
While a lot of people think about photovoltaic panels when "solar power" is mentioned, solar thermal must not be underestimated. One of the players in that field is Stirling Energy Systems (SES), who we've written about before when they set a new world record for "solar-to-grid system conversion efficiency" (31.25 percent, beating the previous record of 29.4 percent). Well, in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories, SES has refined its SunCatcher design. Read on to find out how the new version compares to the old one.
suncatcher Photo: Stirling Energy Systems image

Image: Stirling Energy Systems
Not Reinventing the Wheel
The new Suncatcher is evolutionary rather than revolutionary (you can compare it to the older design by looking at the photo below), but according to the specs released by Sandia National Laboratories, it seems like a significant improvement:

The new SunCatcher is about 5,000 pounds lighter than the original, is round instead of rectangular to allow for more efficient use of steel, has improved optics, and consists of 60 percent fewer engine parts. The revised design also has fewer mirrors — 40 instead of 80. The reflective mirrors are formed into a parabolic shape using stamped sheet metal similar to the hood of a car. The mirrors are made by using automobile manufacturing techniques. The improvements will result in high-volume production, cost reductions, and easier maintenance.

90% of the Suncatcher components will be made in the US, and by using automobile suppliers to make the parts, Stirling Energy Systems is leveraging their manufacturing expertise (and I bet that auto suppliers are glad to get the extra work). “By utilizing the automotive supply chain to manufacture the SunCatcher, we’re leveraging the talents of an industry that has refined high-volume production through an assembly line process. More than 90 percent of the SunCatcher components will be manufactured in North America," says Steve Cowman, Stirling Energy Systems CEO.

Last year, Tim wrote about how a Suncatcher unit set a solar power conversion efficiency world record. I'll be curious to know if these upgraded versions will do even better.

suncatcher original model solar power photo

Photo: Stirling Energy Systems

Above is the older version of the Stirling Energy Systems Suncatcher.

Via Sandia National Laboratories
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