Via “Mr. I Will Be Quiet Now, Oh Just One More Thing,” a.k.a., The Big Gav, we learn from The Boston Herald that some MIT students are making it. Actually, they have been going at since January, but After Gutenberg just learned about it. “Whether or not they can out compete Ausra and co is another question,” observes BG, “but it shows how easy it is to put together this sort of technology.”
“Virtual nude volleyball?”
No… Well, maybe later, but first this is something that is really hot!
The Boston Herald correctly reports that the MIT students have developed low cost solar thermal dishes. Which, as the AG cognescenti know (sniff), is but one type of concentrating solar power.
While we now most often read about utility-scale, solar thermoelectric power plants, as recently noted, this is an example of decentralized energy on a small scale, i.e, renewable energy sources that can be owned and operated by communities, business, or individuals.
Ahrens, Ritter and the other people who helped create the solar-powered dish that harnessed the sunlight that eventually burned the wood say they’ve just created the world’s most cost-efficient solar power system. They also say these dishes may revolutionize global energy production. “You can stick these things wherever there is a piece of sunlight, and power a home or an industrial plant,” said Ahrens, who just received his master’s degree from MIT.
Since January, he’s been working with Ritter, an Olin College student; Micah Sze, a recent graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management; University of California-Berkeley graduate and Broad Institute engineer Eva Markiewicz and MIT materials science student Anna Bershteyn.
Together, they built a 12-foot wide solar panel by piecing together lightweight aluminum tubes to make the frame. Inside, they arranged a series of mirrors and then attached a water-filled coil at the bottom of the frame. When the frame is properly positioned, the mirrors will direct concentrated sunlight toward the coil.
As the water heats up, it is converted to steam, and that steam, the creators say, can be used to generate electricity to heat and cool homes and power machines. They now say its design is so simple, it can be built and placed just about anywhere the sun shines. “We made it by hand and transported the parts by car or by bike,” Ritter said.The crew spent about $5,000 to build the dish, and according to MIT Sloan School of Management lecturer David Pelly, it is the cheapest way he’s seen to harness that much sun power. “I’ve looked for years at a variety of solar approaches, and this is the cheapest I’ve seen,” he said.
Ahrens, Ritter and the others are now packing up and moving to California, where they plan to mass-produce the dishes, probably for less than it cost to build the first one.