Wednesday, October 29, 2014

IBM Sunflower (Welcome to the Thunder Dome II (part two)

IBM and Airlight team up to develop the Sunflower. HCPVT collector. (High Concentration Photovoltaic Thermal.)

Everything is better with a Swiss scientist to show you around, no?

I found this embedded here at Gizmag. A much better story than the others, thank goodness. The collector dish is more creative than the rest of their scheme, I think. They use a fibrous concrete for the dish. Vacuum shaped sheer sheets of metalized foils or the like for the compound primary (40 square meters!) There would need to be dynamic control of that vacuum as the atmospheric pressure changes you do not want a new focal length imposed as the weather and temperature changes....

This just in: a friend tracked down this EDN story. It is not too interested in the offboard bits (low temp implementations and balance of system stuff) but a nice juicy account of a voltage management scheme comes up late in the story, spoiler alert: something called a "Δ-converter" is important. As is putting this important voltage management gear pretty darn close to the cells. Or so it seems.

All of this is worrisome as these are the same cells that are sitting at a 2,000 suns focal point. I'm going to call this "putting all your eggs in one frying pan." Shows a whole lot of faith in the tracking and the cooling apparatus.

I also wonder which disconnections are requiring Flyback Diodes (freewheeling?) Dear readers, what do you see when you read that report. (The images on the EDN story seem to have been pulled. But the PDF still has them (download link here)

Japan rethinking distributed power

Like Hawaii before it, Japan is facing down "too much of a good thing" problem.

"Half of Japan's electric utilities move to restrict additional solar power"

It will get worked out, but look for more of this kind of trouble before it settles down.

Cool tool to explore current energy use by buildings in the USofA

Take a look! they have about a million buildings (I wish it were not by state but by latitude) still lots and lots of cool data to play with.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

IBM - Welcome to the Thunder Dome II

I've been meaning to discuss and size up the IBM hybrid attempt. I saw their cell/module cooling device for large high concentration dishes awhile back. take a look:

Illustration from a Whitepaper on the IBM Sunflower (hybrid CPVT)

What do you see? you see water inlets and outlets for a mission critical back side cooling array. That is the left/bottom side plumbing bits. We cannot see the very smart way they put a high flow highly conductive network for flowing very close to the back of the cells (the 9 dark squares) For size you can see the thermocouple plugs (grey with two different sized and colored blades) they are about a half inch wide (just checked, .66 inches or 17 mm which means those cells are 10mm/10mm.

This needs to be really heat hardy as the cells are supposed to be exposed to some 2000 suns. The paper (or some-other source, they are starting to run-together, sorry) says they are backside conductor cells. Those black faces, unlined by traditional front-side conductors, are confirmation of that.

The two thermocouples are there to monitor the coolant temperature before and after to regulate the flow of coolant. This of course means they have the traditional tradeoff issues that I am trying to avoid with frequency splitting. If the temp goes up the voltage goes down and the electric yield drops. So they are stuck with a lot of very warm water as a product. The good news is they have a vision of this as a very large device and some ideas about what to do with the warm water. More on that in the next post.

I saw some confused notions about using this for boiling water for desalination. The description in that story is pretty vague and has a real units of measure problem. Maybe a deadline pressure meets domain knowledge weakness caused it. Anyhow, further looking shows they have a reverse osmosis scheme (in separate equipment) that uses pressure rather than brute force boiling (which is why reverse osmosis and the related technologies are being explored in general: less energy intensive.) The cooling circuit needs to be closed to keep the high purity and reliability going behind the cells.

We'll look at the collector's reflector array next time.