Field: Solar power
Global Technical function: Converting
Technical Function Unit: Public interest investor for demonstration and commercial exploitation, Solar conversion
Techniques: CHP, Stirling engine
Geographic Area: Sweden

Stirling engine technology

The Stirling engine is a unique technology that is efficiently used when converting gas and solar into heat and electricity. In recent years, the Stirling engine has seen a resurgence as the market has many benefits such as its flexibility to run on any available heat source. One unique application is in the conversion of gas and solar energy into heat and electricity. Since the stirling engine does not rely on internal combustion, it can be powered by low-grade methane gas that is today just being flared or released right into the earth’s atmosphere.

The challenge

Interest in renewable energy has been growing due to increased oil prices and climate change, and related policies seeking to decrease the use of fossil fuels in the power industry.

 

The innovation

In order to contribute to this effort, a new Stirling engine technology has been developed. The engine is powered by gas or solar and has been developed by Cleanergy - a world leading company providing sustainable energy solutions based on the Stirling engine. Cleanergy has its headquarters in Sweden and cooperates with several partners around the world. Investors include the Wallenberg family of industrialists and the Nobel Foundation (public interest investor for demonstration and commercial exploitation).
The principle of the Stirling engines is to use cyclic compression and expansion of a working gas at various temperatures. Stirling engines do not depend upon internal combustion and can run on any available heat source. Stirling technology was invented in 1816 and has been under constant development. The unique technology is sustainable and carbon free if the heat sources are not based on fossil fuels. Cleanergy’s Combined Heat & Power (CHP) is driven by the GasBox stirling engine and makes it possible for landfills, farms and waste water treatment plants to generate useful heat and electricity. The Concentrated Solar Power system is powered by the SunBox stirling engine and generates renewable electricity. Cleanergy’s CSP system is a solar conversion system that generates energy from solar power twice as efficiently as regular PV (PhotoVoltaic) systems.

 

Why did it work?

Increasing market demands for flexible, low-carbon heat and energy generation solutions have opened up a new application for this well-understood technology.

 

Further deployment

Since the technology is ready for full scale deployment, the innovation reaches level 9 on the TRL scale. Cleanergy continues to develop next generation power distribution by developing new technology and unique simulation programs. In cooperation with the European Union, the company is developing a prototype hybrid solar-gas engine that provides improved thermal storage and decreases fuel requirements by 50 %.

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