Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Idea

Hardly anyone knows what a heliostat is. In simple language a heliostat moves a mirror so that the suns reflection off the mirror is stationary while the sun tracks across the sky. Heliostats have been around for a long time and most have been impractical and complex designs. Mechanical and opto-electrical controllers are expensive and lack flexibility. What's needed is a simple to use cheap heliostat run by simple microcontrollers.
Check it out, there's only two web pages out there right now where you can possible by a heliostat. One company wants $2,000 the other $1,500 to get started with a 1sq meter unit. That's hardly going to create an energy revolution. What if one could be sold for half of that? Maybe $750 or even less. This would come out to $0.30/watt of raw energy capacity, compared to more than 20x that for PV.
Are you ready for an energy revolution?
The vision:
Affordable heliostat modules that wirelessly network and communicate with specially designed target appliances which request tracking services from the heliostat modules and distribute the solar power in the most efficient manner.
Example: 5 heliostats, a solar oven, water heater, window, sterling engine/generator
Heliostats target the stationary sterling engine (which uses a fresnel concentrator) providing electricity, occassionally one or two units will switch to the water heater to keep the temperature within the desired range. Someone enters the living room and flips a switch to "turn on the light" which detects that a heliostat is available which is redirected to the room's window bringing both light and warmth into the room. The person leaves the room, but forgets to turn off the switch, the switch eventually detects that the room is getting too warm, and automatically retargets the heliostat back to the sterling engine where it contributes electricity to the grid or a storage system. Now the person enters the kitchen and starts to make a pizza. The solar oven located on the north wall opens its shutters and three heliostats target the oven. Electronics in the oven redirect the heliostats and use shutters to control the temperature as desired. The pizza is half-way cooked when a cloud blocks the sun, and the oven automatically switches to electric or gas backup operation.
This is distributed on demand solar power at it's best.
I could go on and on about the benefits of heliostats over the alternatives. Simple manufacturing, no dependence on precious metals, efficiency....

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