Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Solar Thermal Comes to the Rooftop

Solar concentrated thermal energy is a great technology to generate electricity. To understand the technology see this. However, it generally needs a large area to be effective. This has meant that it was only an option for electrical utilities. If you wanted solar electricity for your home or business, your only option was photovoltaic.

A small but growing Hawaiian company has just changed that!

The name of the company is Sopogy. Just like the company, their name is a mash-up of Solar Power & Technology.

Sopogy's rooftop solution, like many breakthroughs, seems to have been a happy accident. They had planned to supply the massive industrial solar thermal market, just like every other solar thermal electric tech company. As part of their development, they had made test troughs and put them on the roof of their headquarters. This allows them to test things like different tracking angles or mirror materials and quickly gather data. It also was a spot they could take potential investors, clients, or media to display the product.

You can see the company founder in the bottom video explain to one reporter that they are not intending these for rooftop use. After explaining many times that these rooftop systems were not the intended use, they looked at the data and said 'why not?'. Their troughs were small enough for many business rooftops and were cheaper per kilowatt-hour than photovoltaic. Recent advances allowed generators to be used with lower temperatures. The company has now created a new niche.

Electricity is just one option for these rooftop systems; you can even use them to power a cooling system.

More about the Sopogy company and technology in this second video below:

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