“It’s a Stirling solar dish, and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has recently completed a mini power plant composed of six of Liden’s dishes.
“The dish, made by Stirling Energy Systems in Phoenix, is the world’s most efficient solar generator. It uses an old principle—that concentrated light is a great heat source—to achieve a level of efficiency on par with conventional power sources and far higher than traditional solar cells. Instead of converting sunlight directly into electricity, as those familiar rooftop solar panels do, it uses a concave array of mirrors to focus light on a central point, where the resulting heat causes compressed hydrogen to expand, driving a four-cylinder engine that turns a 25-kilowatt generator.”
“Measuring 38 feet across and costing $250,000, this is no residential add-on. It’s meant for the opposite end of the power chain—that is, for utilities seeking extra juice for the grid, not for consumers hoping to reduce their household energy bill. Liden, Stirling’s chief administrative officer, says the company will install a 40-dish, one-megawatt demonstration project in California by early next year. Then, with manufacturing ramped up, Liden wants to get really serious, erecting a 20,000-dish facility somewhere in the Southwest to supply the region with 500 new megawatts, more energy than many nuclear or fossil-fuel plants crank out.”