Monday, May 26, 2008

3D Solar-Thermal Panel


New Type 3D
Solar Thermal Panel

(Loosly, as always, adapted from a press realease)

Dahm - Dr. Kevin Dahm - and his trusty bunch of students- at Rowan College NJ, are working with a local inventor, Neal Cramer, to develop a completely new type solar thermal panel. STS (so-they-say). This is a heat collector panel as distinct from the photo-electric types I have been writing about recently, in other words, it makes hot water etc.

Dr Dahm’s engineering students have pointed out that this is the first truly new solar thermal system in more than 30 years. The developing company have stated that their panel is unique among renewable energy technologies and that it will be cost effective without any government subsidies. (That’s my song they are singing – grants only attract the rip-off merchants and gougers – like blue-bottles to a dead dog).

Because the panel collects the sun’s heat in a three dimensional way, (whatever that really means), it is capable of far higher efficiencies than current designs. This will make it smaller and lighter for the same heat output, and that in turn should make it cheaper per Kw and easier to install. It will also be much more robust and cheaper than the current high efficiency vacuum tube designs as shown above. (Gee I hope that it really works!!)

Generally solar panels work by absorbing sunlight onto a two-dimensional flat black surface and then transfer the heat to a liquid that is pumped through tubes connecting the panel. (Except for the vacuum tube types that use concentrating mirrors and ultra high insulation - see above photo)

The inventor oif this new type of solar panel, Neal Cramer, is the founder of Helios Products, and owns the patent pending on the three-dimensional process. According to reports, the system will, unlike so many new inventions, focus on residential applications initially. (Can I have one?)

Helios say that a typical PV panel systems producing 10 kW require an array of panels that may cover half a roof, and may cost on average $80,000 and reduce the household energy costs by about $1,500 a year. ( Maybe that is a bit of an overstatement – but it is also not good science to compare two completely different processes like that!!! )

They say that the system is going to be available for between 5 to 10 percent of the cost to produce the same energy savings. ( I guess that they are using the fauly PV cell comparison again here)

Dr. Dahm ( makes me want to say “damn it Dr. Dahm”! ) - is working on the basic research evaluating variables in the collector process with his students. They've set up shop in a lab on the third floor of Rowan Hall, the College of Engineering building, and on the top floor, with its heating facilities, storage areas and access to sunlight. They've constructed the solar panels out of a readily available, durable material that will facilitate a rapid introduction into the market.

"We're taking his idea and helping making it viable for the marketplace," Dahm said.

A Dahm good idea I say. Good luck to all with the project!
As usual, we will apply the scientific principle of WAS (wait-and -see)


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