Solar sunflower accumulates energy and water
The very first “drop-in” machine can harvest renewable energy, water and heat to stand alone communities.
It is all possible with the help of a 10-metre-high sun-tracking device that has been create so that it fist in one shipping container. The project belongs to Airlight Energy of Biasca, Switzerland. Besides all this, the plant can also provide refrigeration.
The technology consists of a water-cooled solar panel made by Bruno Michel and his colleagues at IBM, for which Airlight has a patent. The procedure is very simple mirrors lead the sun rays onto 6 panels and the sunlight is amplified 2000 times.
Every panel is made of 25 photovoltaic chips cooled with the help of water found in microchannels. They take care of the heat and provide an optimal temperature. This means the Sunflower functions better than solar panel generators and is uses four times fewer panles for the same amount of power. This also means they are less expensive.
The project is made to be low-cost. The mirrors are usually made of heavy, expensive polished glass, but in this case, every 1-metre mirror consists of metallised foil. “The same material potato chip and chocolate wrapping is made of,” says Ilaria Besozzi of Airlight. The company is now looking for ways of storing the energy.
Sunflower needs help, says Erik Harvey, who is responsible for global programs such as borehole well provision at the London-based charity Water Aid. “Inventions like these create dependencies on supplies of spare parts, skills and consumables. Without a supply chain to provide those things the technology might not be sustainable once it is in place.” Airlight also announced taht the Sunflower’s does not require much maintenance.
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