Solarflux, a company specializing in parabolic dish concentrator technology, has developed the FOCUS parabolic dish concentrator, which converts 72% of the solar energy it gets into usable heat. This news comes from Solarflux, which just announced the results of an independent report by Lehigh University’s Energy Research Center. The report was conducted in close accordance with the methods outlined in the ASTM 905-87 industry standard relating to solar concentrators.
The report reviewed the Solarflux FOCUS parabolic dish concentrator’s performance test results. It showed that the device demonstrated solar-to-thermal conversion efficiency of 72%, meaning that once solar energy arrives at the FOCUS, 72% of it is converted into usable heat.
The company noted that its solar-to-conversion efficiency is comparable to best-in-class solar-to-thermal conversion performance from alternative concentrating solar power (CSP) systems such as parabolic troughs. The difference, however, is that the FOCUS is a full, two-axis tracking device that is able to maintain perfect alignment with the sun from dawn until dusk at all latitudes.
This enables the delivery of maximum conversion efficiency throughout the day and year-round, which reportedly gives the FOCUS a significantly higher annual energy yield than alternative CSPs. FOCUS has outperformed parabolic troughs by up to 50% or more depending on the system’s peak capacity and site location.
The new FOCUS dish seems to offer a low-cost, low-maintenance, zero-emission modular thermal energy solution that can be used in a variety of ways. These include:
- Industrial process heat.
- Water desalination and purification.
- Space heating and cooling.
- Hot water.
- Remote power generation.
I had a quick chat with Solarflux CEO and founder Naoise Irwin, who said:
“This report provides independent confirmation of what we have long known — that the FOCUS solar concentrator is the highest performing solar technology out there.
“With a low lifetime cost of energy and room for further performance improvements, we are excited about the prospects for the FOCUS.”
Additional Information About Solarflux FOCUS
The FOCUS is said to have a small physical footprint relative to other solar energy technologies. The company says that its thermal energy storage solution is around 1/10th of the price of battery storage, which allows FOCUS to be used to power nighttime operations sustainably at a low cost, and in remote locations.
It’s made up of mostly aluminum and steel and is highly recyclable. It doesn’t have an e-waste problem or toxic substances to manage at the end of its life. The thermal energy that FOCUS produces can be used for many things. Irwin pointed out, as well, that many of these uses can be helpful to mining companies of various sorts — due to the efficiency and capability in remote locations as well as the diversity of uses.
Earlier this spring, Solarflux shared a blog post titled, “The Promise of Parabolic Dish CSP Technology,” which pointed out that parabolic dishes are commonly understood as the most efficient concentrating solar power CSP technology and noted that the promise has been long recognized.
The article described some of the challenges that CSP has faced as an industry over the past decade, but explained that the Solarflux team earnestly believes that CSP, especially the parabolic dish, has significant potential, most notably as a distributed solar thermal (versus electrical) energy technology. Citing the IEA, the article pointed out that heat is the largest energy end-use and it accounts for over 50% of energy consumption. Half of this is used by industry, with a balance used for space and water heating (think cooking in homes and buildings) and agriculture with only around 10% of the heat being provided by renewable technologies.
Another large energy consumer mentioned was air conditioning, which accounts for up to 27% of home energy consumption in parts of the US. Mine is definitely in that number — heat domes are not fun! Solarflux noted that air conditioning can be more energy efficient if it uses a thermal energy source along with an absorption chiller. You can read more here.