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MIT Startup RawSolar Heading to Cali

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Now that the U.S. has frozen the building of new solar projects on public land, interest in smaller solar systems that can be more easily built on private lands could see a boost. One such system comes from a young startup incubated at MIT called RawSolar. Earlier this month the company said its solar-concentrating dish prototype had passed some initial tests; this week the company said it’s moving to Berkeley, Calif., to start on its commercialization business plan.

RawSolar claims its dish technology could be the most cost-efficient solar system in the world because it will use simple, standard materials and components, which can be ordered from local distributors anywhere in the U.S. The company’s manufacturing processes are simple enough to be accomplished at any functional machine shop, according to RawSolar co-founder Matt Ritter (pictured in the shots below), who says he helped build the MIT prototype with a standard drill press.

Solar inventor Doug Wood created the original technology in his backyard in Washington State. Ritter says that, “Like for the Model T, this standardization of parts, and elimination of the bottlenecks that form around exotic materials or high-powered precision machining, gives the conventional-looking design truly revolutionary potential.” RawSolar is in the process of buying the patent for the technology from Wood.

Each dish itself has a 10 kW capacity, which is tiny in the solar thermal world, but the company could jack that up by stringing the dishes together. The dish design can concentrate sunlight 1,000 times to produce steam that can be used to either heat buildings or be applied in different manufacturing processes.

While many solar thermal startups use the steam that is generated by solar systems to produce electricity, RawSolar, for now, thinks there is a big enough market to focus on selling steam power. Ritter says any company that uses natural gas (and oil heat) for thermal power is a potential customer, and RawSolar plans to sell its steam power in power purchase agreements for 10 percent less than the price of natural gas, before subsidies, at today’s prices.

And now RawSolar is moving to Berkeley. Ritter says that’s because the company believes more of its customers are going to on the other coast, in the sunny Southwest. There’s also a good crop of engineers in the area (the company is hiring). Two of the four founding team members were UC Berkeley undergrads.

Relocating could also give RawSolar easier access to Sand Hill Road, as Ritter tells us the company is looking to raise its first round of funding. The startup would use it to build its first pilot installation with a customer, hopefully by the end of the year, Ritter says.

Photos courtesy of RawSolar.

6 Responses to “MIT Startup RawSolar Heading to Cali”

  1. blue7053


    LNG is contained by a dynamic system of ‘expansion voids’. Like a Potemkin doll, the large container contains a smaller one and that, a smaller one still. Each one, from the actual internal LNG container in the center, is a space into which the boil off from the previous container may expand. It is not a containment vessal; it’s a containment ‘system’. Friends of mine were overseers on a construction project for a new LNG ship. At the completion of the construction, they refused to accept the ship. Nothing on the ship worked, many of the systems that did work were erratic, they had no idea what the response would be when they took actions.
    They were fired and blackballed on the East Coast.
    I was automation Engineer on a Supertanker with one of them. He did fine on there.

    I don’t remember the math but the explosive capabilities of an LNG tanker are similar to the bombs now (2008) used in Afghanistan. You gasifie the liquid with one explosion, then ignite the resultant gas. They will take out entire towns.

    Each man has within his personal strength of character and capabilities, a sense of what he can control. Whether men, ships, airplanes, construction jobs, you know when you’re over your head. This doesn’t apply to the personnal in a nuclear power plant. They have been chosen by a differant set of criteria. When the place catches on fire, fills with smoke and explosions are heard here and there, they don’t look to the guy who takes charge in such situations; they hold a meeting. I rejected ‘retiring’ into the nuclear industry because the men who would have been my bosses, weren’t qualified to work for me.

    I don’t know whether this is important or not, but I’ve saved two or three ships, spent nine years moving ammo in Viet Nam, and have an IQ about 160. Some things I just won’t do.

  2. greensolutions


    Why would you not allow one of these in your neighborhood? Care to explain “this thing will kill you?” What do you mean by “the potential of the equipment determines the qualifications of the operator?” ….and how exactly is the nuclear industry run by people looking for a good grade?

  3. blue7053

    All components for steam applications have been available for a hundred years on the web, UTube, the back of magazines,… the problem is, this thing will kill you. I have 30 years experience in the industry and I wouldn’t allow one of these in my neighborhood. Why? Simple: the potential of the equipment determines the qualifications of the operator. That’s why I got out of the nuclear business. It, like this MIT project, is run by people looking for a good grade.

  4. sweet! I’ve been reading a lot about these MIT team all over the internet. I like how they admit on their website that this isn’t an original idea, many people have already been doing concentrated solar thermal for years. You can google many DIY solar thermal websites that show you how to make a concentrated solar collector. If they could figure out how to turn the steam into a electric generator which could help power a home or small business, bringing the technology down to the consumer level, well I think that would be a game changer.