Solar dish or solar energy collector is used to absorb concentrated sun energy in the form of a beam that could melt steel. The United States Energy Information Administration classifies solar dish as low, medium, or high-temperature collectors. As of 2009, solar dishes implemented across the world generate only 600 megawatts of solar thermal power. New facilities are underway for additional solar power totaling 14,000 megawatts. These dishes are made from inexpensive aluminum tubes and mirror strips which makes them very light, thin and 12 foot wide. It works by concentrating the radiation of sun by 1000th factor to enable production of steam. Solar Dish Engine is one of the oldest solar technologies in the world and was developed during the early 1800s. During the 1970s and 1980s different modern technologies were added to solar dish technology.
Solar dish works similar to the conventional thermal power plants. It traps solar radiation and converts into mechanical energy and then to electrical energy. It makes use of multiple mirrors for reflecting and concentrating the solar radiations. Trapped solar energy is then transferred to an engine that heats to mechanical power in a manner similar to conventional engines. There are two types of solar dish engines, Stirling cycle and Brayton cycle. The stirling cycle engines are used in solar dish systems that functions in high-temperature (above 1292ºF) and high-pressure (20MPa) environment. This engine use hydrogen or helium gas as fuel. The brayton cycle engine, also known as jet engine, combustion turbine, or gas turbine, is a type of internal combustion engine which burns fossil fuel to produce power.
The two main components of solar dish are concentrator and receiver:
In June 2008, the students of Massachusetts institute of technology designed and successfully tested a highly cost effective solar power system termed as MIT Prototype solar dish that is expected to create a revolution in the prodcution of energy globally. The design of this prototype comprise of a 12 foot wide mirrored dish made by assembling different materials like cheap aluminum tubing, and strips of mirror forming a thin and lightweight frame. The dish has the ability to concentrate the solar heat by factor of 1000 that can easily melt metal bar.
The Infinia Power solar dish is the world's first solar power generation system based on Stirling. It is ideally suited to automotive scale manufacturing. It is available in varied capacities and can be used for wide-range of applications from multi-MWs deployed in utility-scale solar power plants to small tasks. This system uses helium as fuel and has average 25 years of life. It's a zero maintenance system which functions without any lubricants.
Solar dish engines are highly versatile. These dishes have the ability to provide large amount of energy from 100 kilowatts to 1000 gigawatts. A solar dish can be used to provide heat for a wide range of industries using boilers or heaters and chemical processing plants such as sugar mills, textile mills, agro and food processing industries, vegetable oil mills timber industry and milk processing. This technology can be used by hotels and hospitals for providing hot steam, water, and space cooling (vapor absorption) which can reduce energy costs at the commercial level and the savings passed on to the costumers. Low-temperature solar dishes are used to heat swimming pools. Medium-temperature solar dishes are often used for heating air or water for residential and commercial use. High-temperature collectors are generally utilized for electric power production. Moreover, the solar dish concentrates sunlight on a movable receiver to produce steam for cooking.
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