Pioneering solar energy research underway at SDSU-IV Brawley campus
At San Diego State University's Center for Energy Sustainability in Brawley, Combined Power LLC is performing a demonstration of a renewable energy technology. (ARTIST RENDERING PROVIDED BY JON GUICE / April 11, 2013)
The Combined Power LLC’s Hyperlight Demonstration Project is simple, cheap and potentially will have international impact.
Hosted at San Diego State University’s Center for Energy Sustainability, passersby in Brawley will be able to glimpse what may be the future of solar energy.
SDSU-IV Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Mike Sabath said SDSU-IV engineers listened to the project pitch from developers and decided it’s a viable project “of intense interest because it’s very low-tech.”
“It’s a unique technology that there is no other quite like this,” Sabath said. “There are some reflective technologies but not the same as this. They’re hoping it will be a low-cost technology with agricultural and rural applications,” particularly in under-developed countries eventually.
The project touts low environmental impact as well as lower construction and operating costs compared to existing utility scale solar development.
The patented technology uses concentrated solar thermal technology that essentially incorporates mirrors attached to plastic tubes floating on water in trenches lined with agricultural pond liner.
Those mirrors reflect light back up to long skinny metal black targets which in turn generate “steam” power.
The project site only covers 1.8 acres and is projected to generate at least 400 kilowatts, Combined Power Chief Business Officer Jon Guice said.
While research and development work for the project have been going on for years, project site preparation began in the summer and equipment started coming in earlier this year.
Combined Power will be watching to make sure everything is working correctly over the next few months, but the developers are very excited about the technology.
Most concentrated solar thermal technology uses heavy mirrors held up by steel in a large concrete base.
However, “in this case, it’s plastic, it’s lightweight, and can be carried on back of a truck,” Guice said.
How much the technology would cost to be implemented is “hard to say but is a truck full of plastic cheaper than a small factory?” Guice asked.
However, Combined Power is being careful to not overhype the project at this point, stating that “our approach is to deliver it, see how it works and then talk about it.”
They aim to go to market with real prices and performance data within a few years, specifically marketing it in southern California initially.
The project is under contract with the California Energy Commission who had released a request for proposals to identify and support development of innovative renewable energy technologies. Combined Power won the competitive bid contract for $1 million.
The project is one of numerous significant renewable energy projects in development at the SDSU-IV Center for Energy Sustainability.
“What we’re looking to do is to provide opportunity for industry to test out their technologies, evaluate their performance and hopefully develop some new technology in the process,” Sabath said. “We’re also employing the presence of the technologies to support research and teaching faculty on our campus here in Imperial Valley and also in San Diego.”
I think it will be a great opportunity for students to learning about the technology and sustainability issues but also write theses and dissertations on subjects relevant to renewable energy,” Sabath added.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org