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Solar Stirling Engine Systems for Energy Independence PDF

Solar Stirling Engine Systems for Energy Independence PDF

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Published by FRANCIS FUNG

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Published by: FRANCIS FUNG on Jul 25, 2008
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SOLAR STIRLING ENGINE SYSTEMS FOR ENERGYINDEPENDENCE
BY FRANCIS C W FUNG, PH.D.
“Steam Engine initiated 19
th
Century, internal combustion engine powered 20
th
Century,and Stirling engine will herald 21
st
Century Green Harmony”.Exactly two decades and four years ago I delivered a key note speech at the SecondInternational Conference of Stirling Engines in Shanghai, China. The title of my speechwas “The Promising Future of Stirling Engines in China”. At the time, I was General partner of the US Stirling Engine R and D Partnership (STRD Partnership) and a visitingconsultant to Institute of Thermophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. In my speech, Iannounced the technology transfer of Stirling Engine technology from US MechanicalTechnology Inc. to China, arranged by the US STRD Partnership. For reference, see theattached titled pages of the Stirling Engine Conference and the Agreement betweenShanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute (SMDERI) and STRD Partnership.In the lapse of two decades great strides have been made by the world engineeringcommunities in the applications of Stirling Engines, which variously has been also calledhot gas engines or external heat engines. The last name is to distinguish it from the wellknown internal combustion engine. It can be said Stirling Engines now can be foundworking under Deep Ocean to the earth surface and out to space. Because its mechanical power is derived from external heating, its use of fuel is unlimited in form or source. Of  particular interest we can mention solar heat, fossil fuels, nuclear fuel, waste and allforms of indigenous heat. Last but not least, one day we may find implanted nuclear isotope Stirling Engines in human bodies powering artificial hearts without the need for refueling or recharging.The most endearing and commanding source of external heat to power Stirling Engineswithout doubt is solar heat. With solar heat as available power because of the simplicityof the Stirling Engine operating principle compared to the conventional internalcombustion engine this is a winning combination from ecological and renewable energyconsiderations. In this application, the Stirling Engines can be miniaturized, sans intakeand exhaust valves and cost minimized without the need for injection carburetion andignition systems compared to internal combustion engines. The operating gas in aStirling Engine is hermetically sealed and heat is added to the outside of the enginecylinder. In a solar powered Stirling Engine there is absolutely no need for intake andexhaust valves as in conventional internal combustion engines. Thus mechanically highefficiency Stirling Engines are still very simple. Most of all, because of its high heat and power concentration capability it is also particularly suitable for large electric utilityapplications compared to solar voltaic panels.As of this writing, the two largest Solar power Stirling Engine Utility Plants under construction are the Solar One Project being built for Southern California Edison at the1
 
California Mohave desert and the Solar Two Project being built for San Diego Gas andElectric at Imperial County at Southern California. Following are descriptions anddesigned power capacities of the two projects.
SOLAR ONE PROJECT,
Capacity: 500 MW (for 300,000 homes) with expansionoption to 850 MW
20,000 - 34,000 solar dish Stirling systems
20-Year Power Purchase Agreement
Sited in the Mojave Desert east of Barstow, CAThe Solar One project site is located in San Bernardino County in an undeveloped area of the Mojave Desert.
SOLAR TWO PROJECT,
Capacity: 300 MW with expansion options to 900 MW
12,000 - 36,000 solar dish Stirling systems
20-Year Power Purchase Agreement
Sited in the Imperial Valley near El Centro, CAThe project site for Solar Two is located in Imperial County in Southern California.The first 500 MW phase of Project One is planned to go into service by the end of 2009.Once in service, this will become the largest solar powered utility plant in the world. Thequestion is then, how well does large Solar powered Stirling Engine utility plant stacksup against the current technology of both renewable and conventional fueled utility plants? The answer is a resounding “very well indeed”. Otherwise Southern CaliforniaEdison and San Diego Gas and Electric as experienced utility plant owners as they are,will not rush head long into these two huge projects. Without becoming an insider of thetwo projects, one can still easily arrived at their choices at today’s oil price hovering atUS$ 150 a barrel. Here is my take on how their overview rational reasoning may go likeas explained in the following.First and foremost, the solar Stirling Engine technology being used in these two projectsare called the SES SunCatcher system, they hold the record for the most efficient solar electricity generation technology in the world. The SES SunCatcher is a highlyconcentrating solar thermal technology that converts sunlight into electricity at a rate of 31.25 percent, significantly more efficient than its closest competitor by far. EachSunCatcher dish is 38 feet tall, 40 feet wide and generates 25,000 watts of power, whichmeans they occupy much less space compared to any solar voltaic panels power to power.The large space required for solar voltaic panels, high price and low 10% efficient,disqualified them as candidates for large utilities in competing with solar Stirling Engine.A check of the largest solar voltaic panel utility planned by these utilities, uncovered a plan for 80 MW to supply electricity for 50,000 homes. This planed design is only onetenth in capacity of Project One or Project Two. Project One and Two when go into fullservice will provide 1750 MW electricity total for 930,000 homes. These each of these2
 
Stirling Engine utility plant is thus 10 times larger than the largest photo voltaic plants planned by the same utility owners. This large capacity is equivalent to two large size Nuclear Power Plants. Since we are now at the range of Nuclear Power plant utilities, letus compare nuclear and solar Stirling Engine power plants.Because of the strict need and regulation requirements to prevent nuclear radioactivityleaks, all nuclear power plants must be housed in fortified containment housing. Allsystems of hot and cooling water circulations must be heavily protected. So the cost of nuclear power plants is manifolds higher than equivalent fossil fuel power plants. Theconstruction cycle is also unduly long. Despite all the built in safety factors for nuclear  power plants, mechanical failures and human errors do occur. Accidents like Three MileIsland in the US and Chernobyl in Russia are unavoidable and the consequences are toodear to accept. The need for more electricity in China is expected. Currently the per capital consumption of electricity in China is less than one tenth of the US. What if theChina per capita consumption eventually catches up with the US?For sheer amount of enormous energy needed for electricity generation , Solar StirlingEngine System utility wins hands down over nuclear and other renewable energy choicesin China and other large countries. California has voted for Stirling Engines and movingahead. China should not wait either. Since Three Mile Island accident, for over thirtyyears, the US has consistently delayed building nuclear power plants. That is to becommended. Large countries like US, Brazil, China with enormous solar power availability have little need for nuclear power plants. Formidable Cost and even the mostremote possibility of nuclear melt down, makes the good ahead of 30 more nuclear power  plants in China unthinkable and irresponsible. I was one time the China countryrepresentative of Combustion Engineering for the sales of moth-balled Tennessee Valley Nuclear power plants ( See attached pages of my contract with CE). The nightmares of TMI and Chernobyl still haunt me. After the unprecedented severe Sichaun earth quakes,the construction of huge hydro power plants such as the three Gorges anywhere in theworld will be most likely put off for a long time if not forever.China is rich in hydropower resources. Its use will continue, but extra ecologicalconsideration must be exercised to reduce harm to marine life. For enhancedenvironmentally friendly hydropower applications, I recommend my patented hydraulicair compressor electric generator technology for indirect, small scale use of hydro power.In my invention applications, water is only diverted through the air entrainment unit anddoes not go through the generator turbines, so marine life is not harmed, and the water isaerated but not heated. Thus the tail water of my invention is oxygenated for improvedfish farming and cleaner and richer irrigation.With concerns over nuclear power plants and other large renewable energy electricgeneration technologies less competitive from the consideration of cost, efficiency andspace requirement, we again is left with Solar Stirling Engine as the commanding choice.There are too many regions in China and the world where sunshine and space are ample,such as Western, South Western, Northern China, US, Brazil and the Middle East to namea few. Even in indigenous hilly areas all over the world, the compact Stirling Engine3

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