Larkfleet Group installs demonstration project to test technology in British winter
Concentrated solar power technologies that are capable of magnifying the sun's rays to create steam and drive a turbine are commonly associated with hot regions, such as California or Abu Dhabi.
But now a Lincolnshire-based construction firm is trying to find out if the approach could work in the cloudy and dark British winter.
The Larkfleet Group yesterday confirmed it has installed a small "solar steam" system at its headquarters in Bourne, which will use a series of lenses to magnify the sun's rays onto metal tubes filled with water.
Unlike conventional solar water heaters, the water will be heated up to a level where it produces steam, which can then be used to generate electricity through a turbine or desalinate water.
John Squire, solar steam project manager, told BusinessGreen the project was designed to discover if the solar lens system was powerful enough to work on cold and cloudy days - a breakthrough that could potentially allow the technology to be used in a variety of climates.
In addition, the project is also hoping to find out how much power or steam a commercial-scale system would produce, as the experimental rig produces a relatively small amount of power.
"At full scale, the system has the potential to be used alongside traditional power stations which raise steam by burning fossil fuels," explained Squire. "The solar steam can be fed to the power station generators so that fuel will need to be burned only at night or on days when solar power is not enough to meet demand."
However, even if the system does work under cloudy Lincolnshire skies, Squire admitted the technology would ultimately deliver higher levels of output in warmer countries where it is sunny for longer periods of time.
"Larkfleet will test the technology fully over a period of years before coming to any conclusions about the potential for future use," he added.