By concentrating sunlight, solar energy can be made both cheaper and more efficient.
The Swedish company Absolicon Solar Concentrator AB in Härnösand has developed new technology featuring concentrating reflectors that produce electricity, heat and hot water.
"A solution to the world’s energy problem, says the company’s CEO", Joakim Byström.
Via a silver mirror, the Absolicon X10 solar collector gathers sunlight into a narrow ray with the strength of 20 suns. This concentrated sunlight is focused onto photovoltaic cells, producing ten times more electricity than traditional solar panels. The power is converted into 230V and can be fed directly into the grid.
This new generation of solar collectors is considered particularly suitable for large buildings and industries using electricity, heat, cooling or steam in their processes. The technology also heats water efficiently. The heat loss in an Absolicon solar collector during conversion to hot water is just a quarter of that in a traditional flat solar collector.
A typical installation might be in a hotel with 50 rooms in southern Spain. Ten solar collectors (100 m2) would produce 5 000 litres of hot water, enough to meet the entire hotel’s needs in terms of shower water and hot water for cooking and washing. It would also generate the equivalent of 20 kW of electricity, enough to power all the lighting, minibars and fans.
The repayment period for this investment, given current energy prices and Spanish conditions, would be 6-10 years. In Sweden, with its solar power subsidies, a similar installation replacing one powered by electricity and oil would have a repayment period of approximately 10 years.
In a country such as India, the period would be considerably shorter. Here, this technology is deemed to have particularly high potential. Concentrating solar collectors in such countries use just a quarter of the energy and natural resources used by older technology, which means mass production is a feasible option.
The manufacturing sector stands to benefit in a variety of ways. The solar cells can be exchanged for a thermal tube that produces temperatures of up to 200 degrees celsius. This means the heat from the solar collector can be used directly in processes requiring steam, such as the textile and food industries.
Heat-powered cooling equipment represents a substantial area of application for water with temperatures of 140-160 degrees celsius. Hitherto, this well-tested technology has used gas or oil for its energy supply. Now, with the aid of concentrating solar collectors, solar energy can be fully harnessed to cool buildings.
"Industry needs solar energy to lower its energy costs", says Joakim Byström, "economic benefit and environmental benefit go hand in hand. Concentrated solar energy is the solution to the world’s energy problems. Absolicon will not rest until our solar collectors have been installed in every country in the world."
In 2011, Absolicon won the prestigious Intersolar Award for the best solar heating product.