South African scientists at Stellenbosch University have developed an affordable solar power prototype, something internet giant Google could not achieve.
A 100% South African heliostat technology is being developed for the fast growing Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) industry. A heliostat is an energy producing device that uses mirrors or lenses to reflect sunlight. The unique design uses smaller, smarter and modular heliostats to overcome cost challenges. A pilot facility has been built within government’s Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Helio100 technology development project and will be opened next month.
CSP is able to provide dispatchable, clean energy at utility scale, with the added benefit of high localisation potential and socio-economic beneficiation. In early 2014 the team won a grant from the TIA to showcase the technology in a 100kW pilot facility. The technology takes a simple and fresh approach to overcome the challenges that are currently faced in heliostat fields.
The South African device is unique because it is extremely easy to install, without much construction needed to set it up. The team aims to reduce production cost further to 6 cents per square meter of mirror. Until now, building heliostat plants has been prohibitively expensive.
In 2011, Google announced that it halted its own heliostat project after researchers could not design an inexpensive model.
Karel Steyn, President of the SAEE comments, “Our country has sun drenched regions with an average of over 2 500 hours of sunshine every year. It therefore comes as no surprise that South African engineers and scientists are pioneers in heliostat technologies. Stellenbosch University and its Centre for Renewable & Sustainable Energy Studies is making an important contribution to securing not only our country but the world’s energy future by applying some of the best minds the global industry has to offer.”