Solar energy converter creates power and heat for cheap

(Nanowerk News) A new hybrid solar energy converter generates electricity and steam with high efficiency and low cost, researchers report (Cell Reports Physical Science, "Solar Cogeneration of Electricity with High-Temperature Process Heat").
“Thermal energy consumption is a huge piece of the global energy economy—much larger than electricity use. There has been a rising interest in solar combined heat and power systems to deliver both electricity and process heat for zero-net-energy and greenhouse-gas-free development,” says Matthew Escarra, associate professor of physics and engineering physics at Tulane University.
hybrid solar energy converter
In tests, the system demonstrated 85.1% efficiency. Researchers project it to have a system levelized cost of 3 cents per kilowatt hour. (Image: Matthew Escarra/Tulane)
The hybrid solar energy converter uses an approach that more fully captures the whole spectrum of sunlight. It generates electricity from high efficiency multi-junction solar cells that also redirect infrared rays of sunlight to a thermal receiver, which converts those rays to thermal energy.
The thermal energy can be stored until needed and used to provide heat for a wide range of commercial and industrial uses, such as food processing, chemical production, water treatment, or enhanced oil recovery.
The team reports that the system demonstrated 85.1% efficiency and delivered steam at up to 248°C. They project the system will have a system levelized cost of 3 cents per kilowatt hour.
“We are pleased to have demonstrated high performance field operation of our solar converter,” Escarra says, “and look forward to its ongoing commercial development.”
Source: Tulane University
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