Solar thermal power generation faces stiff competition in markets which have become increasingly dominated by mass-manufactured silicon-PV. The thermal power generation community has therefore come to concentrate increasingly on the advantages that PV cannot offer: cheap energy storage and hybridisation with fossil fired cycles.

On a distributed/small scale the relative heat losses from and complexities involved in such schemes make them less attractive. However, the potential benefits of a distributed scale are the same that have underpinned the rise of silicon PV: rapid deployability, independence from lossy transmission infrastructure and often the ability to use free land.

A range of possibilities exist between efficient but expensive high-concentration systems (e.g. Dish-Stirling) at one end, and potentially cheaper but less efficient low-concentration systems (e.g. Non-Tracking collectors and ORC) at the other. In this talk I will draw on the examples of two British projects based in Oxford that approach these categories from a novel angle:

• A University project to develop a point-focus, two-axis tracking concentrator based on single-curvature mirrors.

• A project being conducted by Thermofluidics to develop a pumping engine without moving parts based on an Organic working fluid and a Stirling-like configuration.

I will provide a brief summary of the two technologies and their particularities and argue that the first is particularly well suited to Dish-Stirling systems in combination with storage or hybridisation, and the second to using non-tracking collectors or waste heat for applications such as remote fluid pumping, solar cooling and possibly potable water production through desalination/dehumidification.


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  • Received: 05 February 2012
  • Accepted: 13 March 2012
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