A Boulder, Colo., company’s bid to make solar power more viable for residential and small commercial buildings by using it to both heat water and produce electricity appears to be making headway. The company, Cool Energy, announced it has completed commissioning of the solar field for its SolarFlow System on a commercial building.
The idea behind Cool Energy’s work is to take advantage of as much of the energy captured by a solar system as is possible. It tries to do so with its SolarHeart Engine, a generator powered by a Stirling engine that activates whenever the electricity produced from the solar system is more valuable than the heat consumed. So in winterime, most of the energy from the solar field is used to heat a building’s work or living space. Then in summer months, the system’s engine converts that thermal energy to electricity which can be used to power, say, air conditioners.
The Cool Energy technology looks like a different way to get at the solar cogeneration possibilities being pursued by Cogenera Solar.
The company says that peak utility electrical loading requirements are better matched with the SolarFlow System than straight solar photovoltaic because the thermal storage feature enables electricity production throughout the day (even when cloudy) and night. According to Cool Energy, tests of the third generation of the SolarHeart “recently generated over 2000 watts of electric power, and reached a thermal to electrical conversion efficiency of over 16 percent, exceeding expectations.”