Solar Thermal Engine

Solar thermal power plants use the same kind of superheated steam as conventional oil, coal, or nuclear power plants. Unfortunately it's almost impossible to build and install a practical high temperature power plant for  a single residential house. 
How about the low temperatures available from flat plate collectors? Can they supply enough heat to drive a solar thermal engine?

A flat plate collectors might reach a temperature of 240 F  in bright sunlight if no fluids are circulated through the collector flow tubes. When water is circulated to collect heat this high temperature drops off rapidly and approaches the temperature of the heat storage vault.   A  Stirling engine , invented  in 1816, is capable  of generating electricity with temperature differences as low as 20 degrees F so it should be an easy matter to generate power from a heat storage vault temperatures of 150 degrees F and a heat sink of 100 F. Good Sterling engines can be pricey and not very powerful. An alternative to the Sterling engine is the steam engine run with a low boiling point liquid that's condensed and reused.  


In1904 Henry E. Willsie developed the concept of thermal storage. His choice of a vaporizing liquid was sulfur dioxide because of its low boiling point and high specific gravity.  The exhausted gas was then reused by liquefying it inside a condensing tube and pumping it back into the boiler. Willsie used the stored hot water as a boiler and made no attempt to salvage the condensed heat from the steam engine.

The solar hybrid engine that I'm now working on takes a low boiling point gas like COand pumps it into the flow tubes of a collector under pressure where it boils. The gaseous COis then used to drive a turbine. I am sorry I can not share with you the project details at this time, but with a little luck projects like this will be commonplace in the coming years. If successful the integrated solar: HEATING, HOT WATER and POWER  system should be able to supply most of the energy needs of people in a dwelling at an affordable price.  It sure would be nice to use rather than waste the  energy that falls on our roofs. If you would be interested in participating in a project like this let me know the how, when and why and I'll get back to you.  May the sun help you live long and prosper.

John Canivan         



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