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Stirling Energy to Kick Off Its First Plant

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As solar thermal firms like eSolar have started flipping switches on their first projects in U.S. deserts, I’ve been eagerly waiting the stirling engine solar folks to officially enter the game. Looks like we’re getting one project at the end of this month: Stirling Energy Systems and its developer partner Tessera Solar are planning an invite-only kick-off event for the media on Jan. 22 to inaugurate the first project to use Stirling Energy System’s “SunCatcher” solar dish.

Stirling Energy and Tessera have built Maricopa Solar, a 1.5MW solar project in Peoria, Ariz. (Maricopa County) that will use 60 SunCatchers to sell clean power to local Arizona utility Salt River Project. The ribbon-cutting event is supposed to feature Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Department of Energy Solar Program Manager John Lushetsky.

This is just the first small project from the Stirling Energy crew, and the company says that later this year it will start construction of its two much larger solar plants in California — a potentially 900MW plant in Imperial County, Calif. for San Diego Gas & Electric, and a 850MW solar plant in San Bernardino County, Calif. for Southern California Edison.

Founded in 1996, Phoenix, Ariz.-based Stirling Energy has developed a 25 KW electric solar dish that focuses the sun rays directly onto a stirling engine. Stirling engines, which were invented centuries ago, can be more efficient and quieter than internal combustion engines and use a closed system of gases to generate power. Most solar thermal technologies, by contrast, concentrate the sun’s rays onto liquid, which powers a turbine.

Stirling isn’t the only company turning to stirling engines for solar power. One example is Infinia, which is backed by a gaggle of A-list Silicon Valley-ers, including Bill Gross’ Idealab and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital. Infinia’s technology is similar to Stirling’s and uses mirrored concentrator dishes to track the sun and reflect its rays into a highly efficient Stirling heat engine. Stirling Energy has raised $100 million from Dublin, Ireland’s NTR, which in the process took a 52-percent stake in the company, according to the Cleantech Group.

9 Responses to “Stirling Energy to Kick Off Its First Plant”

  1. As there is almost no information provided to the public regarding client charges, production cost is the metric we must compare, and even then, information is very purposefully limited. The bubble of green energy has been carefully inflated by hiding and often misrepresenting true costs. I fear the inevitable bubble burst will fill many jail cells.

    First Solar, Inc. openly advertises the price of its CdTe photovoltaic cells at less than a $1/watt. Photovolataic systems also boast the advantage over Stirling Solar of requiring less real estate for an equal amount of energy.

    The CEO of Infinia has previously reported the cost of its 3000 Watt Stirling solar system at $18,000 or $6/watt. Actually, I find the reported $18,000 price to be difficult to believe.

    Infinia claims it has $2 Billion dollars in orders for its systems but will not reveal from whom. Questionable Spanish clients seem to lurk in the shadows. This claim is also highly unlikely as Infinia is unable to attract new venture capital and has heavily relied on very modest debt equity for subsequent funding.

    Infinia also strangely pursues alternative government funding for mediocre military projects with relatively trifling budgets which is very odd since they previously sabotaged a very lucrative government contract to puruse the unworthy solar scheme.

    I don’t understand how Stirling Energy Sytems or Infinia remain in business or how they were even able to attract initial venture capital. Engineering analysis would have quickly revealed the folly of the pursuit of profits from Solar Stirling. I suspect marketing and sales shysters dominating engineering and ignoring the technical-price obstacles sold a shallow dream to naive corporate officers.
    Something is very strange and very wrong.
    Time will tell.

  2. Stirling solar is a fraud.
    The dollar per watt price of solar stirling is six times that of CdTe photovolataic solar energy.
    At a six times lower cost, even CdTe photovoltaic energy can’t compete with the current cost of power off the grid.
    Solar stirling companies are becoming more careful to conceal price information as they desperately maneuver for a chump’s buyout.
    It remains to be learned if the top corporate officer’s of these highly irresponsible and fraudulent green companies end up in jail.
    I fear they’ve illegally misrepresented their products.