Dishing Out Power with a Solar Engine

Bad pun aside, C|net posted an article a couple of weeks ago about a different type of solar power generator being built by Infinia. Their design, which looks like a satellite dish, uses a Stirling engine as its basis for generating electricity. The Stirling engine, which was invented in the 19th century and used as an alternative to steam engine, uses a closed cylinder that holds gas and a piston. When heat is applied, the gas expands, which moves the piston, and turns a crank, which then can be used to generate electricity. In this case, the initial energy source is the sun. Infinia claims that their solar engine will operate at 24% efficiency, as compared to the typical solar cell efficiency of 12-15%.

The dish, which is about 15 ft high, tracks the sun during the day to maximize output. The company says that potentially thousands of them can be placed together on open land to create one huge solar farm. But right now the company is developing 3 Kwh model that would be suit the needs of a residential home. A couple of them could be strung together to meet the needs of a large customer.

Infinia's solar engine

Want to see some more pictures, along with a time-lapse video of the dish tracking the sun? Check out infinia’s web site.

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