A Solar Heart for Northern Homes


The home energy related posts continue... Inhabitat recently posted on a new solar system by Boulder-based Cool Energy Inc. Their SolarHeart system is a flexible solar installation that can provide hot water, space heating and electricity in cooler climates like Canada, and the northern regions of Europe and the US.

The heart of the installation is an engine design that has been around since the early 1800s.

The system uses solar thermal collectors that are similar to those used in solar hot water heaters. But as well as providing hot water, the system generates electricity using a modified version of a Stirling engine. Stirling engines use a difference in temperature between the two halves of the engine to generate thrust, which in this case is used to generate electricity. Cool Energy's innovation is to create a highly efficiency ceramic and polymer engine that can run at much lower temperatures than a conventional Stirling engine (200 °C rather than 500 °C+). (see a good discussion of the tech side here.)

The company is aiming to reach 20% efficiency and claims that the current version of the SolarHeart can provide a home with 80% of its heat, 100% of it's hot water and 60% of it's electricity. The website is a bit low specifics of how the system is set up, but it looks promising.

The solar thermal energy can then be cycled between electricity generation, or water and space heating - depending on what is needed at the time. Also, by including an insulated thermal storage tank, the system can collect thermal energy while the sun shines and save it to generate electricity at peak times. The technology works well even in indirect light conditions, which would be perfect for the cloudy winter days that we get here in Vancouver and all along the Pacific Northwest. (I wish I worked as well when it was cloudy!)

Comments

2 Responses to "A Solar Heart for Northern Homes"

Solar Panels Las Vegas said... 16 December 2015 at 06:26

Solar power use to provide electricity, hot water, and even cooling for homes, businesses, industry. We can save electricity to use of Solar power.

Blogger said... 1 December 2016 at 21:19

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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

Info on my consulting work, c.v. and current research focus is all here.