Solar Turbine Testing Completed

Arizona’s Southwest Solar Technologies Inc. has completed full-scale testing of a new prototype solar-turbine power system which combines gas turbine technology with an enormous parabolic mirror.
   
The company says unlike conventional concentrated solar power (CSP) systems that rely on steam turbine technology to produce electricity, Southwest’s 320 square-metre solar concentrating dish focuses a quarter of a megawatt of thermal energy – the equivalent heat of 2,000 suns – into a high temperature receiver where compressed air is superheated and used to drive a gas turbine alternator to produce electricity.
   
In recent times large-scale CSP has suffered somewhat of an image problem due to stalled efficiency levels. Several development companies have abandoned the technology in favour of what has become a cheaper option, systems based on solar panels
   
Southwest Solar’s new air turbine has the potential to lift CSP stocks, as Chief Technical Officer Herb Hayden pointed out after successful testing of the air receiver back in June, when the receiver operated at the temperature goal of 925C at just 20 percent capacity. The system is scalable and can be hybridised. 
    
"This high temperature performance achieved far exceeds typical 400 C temperature of other CSP systems," he said. "The company’s unique air based turbine cycle, operating at much higher temperatures, is designed to achieve greater than 30% efficiency. This efficiency would far exceed typical photovoltaic (PV) or other CSP solar power systems."
    
According to Southwest Solar’s CEO Brad Forst, the Solar-Turbine Receiver could mark the beginning of a new generation of solar energy technology, with significant reliability advantages over other CSP and PV systems, which are often weather-reliant, and therefore suffer from power generation lapses. 
   
"This is an enormous milestone in our development program. This proof of concept sets the stage for the commercialization of our technology which is well under way."
   
Source – Southwest Solar Technologies Inc.