Concentrated solar power made more affordable

A Colorado company has found a way to make concentrated solar power easier and faster to install while reducing the cost.

With continued improvements over the next three years, SkyFuel executives believe they will reach grid parity by 2015. That means their concentrated solar power system will cost the same amount as typical fossil fuel energy generation.

Rick LeBlanc, CEO of SkyFuel, explained that concentrated solar power is a smart, efficient way to generate ‘round-the-clock power.

“For us, think of the half pipe,” LeBlanc said to describe the look of concentrated solar power troughs. “We capture the sun’s energy and then focus it by a factor of 75.”

The concentrated sun heats a liquid to 750 degrees that generates steam and powers turbines just like a coal-fired energy plant does. That thermal heat can be stored and used even after the sun goes down.

“We’re very versatile,” LeBlanc said. “We can retrofit a standard coal plant.”

CSP uses space more efficiently than solar photovoltaic panels, LeBlanc said, in that troughs on 250 acres can generate 50 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 10,000 homes.

Huge utility-scale Concentrated Solar Plants are going in all over the world, pushing the limits of what we thought solar could do. There are several 100-megawat plants going in throughout the American Southwest and numerous other and even bigger projects in the planning stages.

LeBlanc casually asserted that SkyFuel’s particular system is probably the smartest way to build concentrated solar.

Concentrated solar power typically relies on heavy glass mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy.

The technology that sets SkyFuel apart is its use of ReflecTech Mirror Film, a reflective film than can be adhered to aluminum sheets and slipped into the trough frames on site at concentrated solar power farms. It takes just a few minutes to slip the sheets into the frames. They’re shatter proof, flexible and light. They’re also significantly less expensive to produce than glass mirrors, according to SkyFuel promotional materials.

The company, founded in 2007, has an installation in Colorado and contracts around the world.

Image courtesy of SkyFuel