Dish Stirling Solar Thermal Enters Production

Dish Stirling solar power plants. They inspire awe and wonder to those who have seen the experimental solar thermal units. Looking like massive, twisted satellite dishes on steroids, concocted by quixotic, mad-scientists — the power plants aren’t designed to capture man-made frequencies, but the sun’s powerful and omnipresent solar energy instead.

Phoenix, Arizona – April 23, 2004 [] Next Tuesday, April 27, in Phoenix, Arizona, the experimental technology will take a major leap towards commercialization with the unveiling of a new “productionized” 25 kW unit, along with a new manufacturing facility to mass-produce the dishes. This development stems from a partnership between Stirling Energy Systems (SES), which owns the patents on Dish Stirling technology, and Schuff Steel, with the manufacturing capacity to make commercialization a reality. SES and Schuff Steel have teamed together to produce this new structure. Schuff is already in the process of making five more dishes to deliver to Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico by early Fall. Ten more dishes are planned to be built in 2005 for Arizona Public Service, and 40 more are scheduled for release next year for installation in Southern Nevada at a U.S. Department of Energy dish demonstration project. SES is confident their technology will stack up against all other forms of solar power generation, citing the solar dish engine technology (of which this dish structure is a major component) as “the world’s most efficient solar-electric generating technology.” These dishes can be installed in single distributed-generation applications or massed in large numbers to make utility-scale solar power plants for installation in the deserts of Arizona and the rest of the Southwest U.S. The new “productionized” dish structure undergoes assembly. This dish structure is a redesigned, “productionized” version of the 25 kW dish originally designed and built by McDonnell Douglas in the mid-1980s. It’s the first of a new design, which features more standardized components (less unique parts to manufacture, inventory, keep track of), bolt-down construction rather than rivets (for easier field assembly), more uniform structure (to make fabrication simpler), and galvanized steel components (rather than painted steel). This first dish will soon be shipped to the solar test site at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque NM, for assembly with mirrors and the Stirling power conversion unit to make a complete solar generating system. This first dish took about 1 month to fabricate and about 6 hours to assemble. Schuff Steel will use the experience in producing these first few dishes to develop a high-volume production process (up to 50 dishes per day) to support the large-scale deployment of solar dish systems in the Southwest U.S. Pictured above, the new dish stirling frame unit stands ready for its mirrored collector panels. The dish has one mirror facet to make sure the mounting systems are properly located. The fully-assembled solar dish will have 82 mirror facets produced for SES by a Colorado-based company, PanelTec Inc. The formal unveiling of the first dish, along with the new manufacturing facility will be done through the event held at Schuff Steel in Phoenix, Arizona at 10:00 AM. Governor Napolitano was requested, Dept. of Commerce Officials are expected, and representatives from Schuff International, Schuff Steel, SES, APS, and the Salt River Project will be on hand.

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