When it comes to producing solar power, efficiency is the key – efficiency of the panels, efficiency of the system’s collectors and, according to SkyFuel, efficiency of the solar concentrator technology. Solar concentrators are increasingly being used in the industry, due to their efficiency in providing cheap solar energy. By harnessing the sun’s energy, a solar concentrator can provide the necessary heat for dozens of homes and thus save electricity. As such, the systems are more efficient than regular solar generators as captured power is not just converted into electricity. But according to SkyFuel, a U.S.-based company, their SkyTrough solar concentrator technology has a thermal efficiency of 73% at 350˚C (662˚F). More than just a shallow claim, their statement has been confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which has certified the SkyTrough solar concentrator technology to have the highest efficiency in its class!
Performance of the optical elements of the SkyTrough was measured at the Optical Efficiency Test Loop in Golden, Colorado. The test facility was designed to allowed the study of the optical performance independent of the receiver’s heat loss characteristics. Optical efficiency is a direct gauge of the design elements unique to the SkyTrough’s mirror reflectance, parabolic accuracy, receiver alignment to the focal line of the trough, and the system’s tracking precision. “The SkyTrough solar collector is a new, low-weight design that takes advantage of the patented reflector film jointly developed by SkyFuel and NREL,” said Chuck Kutscher, Principal Engineer and Manager of NREL’s Thermal Systems Group.
In a statement from SkyFuel, the company’s Chief Technology Officer Randy Gee said, “A lot of thoughtful engineering went into the SkyTrough, so we were confident our efficiency would be high, but NREL’s confirmation really validates our technology. We couldn’t be more pleased with NREL’s assessment.”
Parabolic trough solar concentrators, such as the SkyTrough, are designed to harness the sun’s energy to make steam for electricity generation. The more efficiently that a trough can harness the sun’s energy and convert it to steam, the more electricity it will be able to make. In the SkyTrough’s case, nearly three quarters of the solar radiation is thus converted into thermal energy, and then into electricity – a very high figure for solar power production. The fact that the thermal-to-electricity loss is only 27% is quite remarkable considering the large losses of efficiency that occur within the industry.
Images from SkyFuel