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How powerful are GoSol.org’s solar concentrators?
A 4sqM GoSol.org solar concentrator boils 8L of water in 30 minutes. Effectively as powerful as a 2000W electric stovetop burner on red-hot. That said, solar energy depends on where in the world you are, the ambient temperature, how much reflective surface area you’re using and how clear the atmosphere is. Most solar power calculations are based on INcoming SOLar radiATION (insolation) of 1000W/m2. Boiling 8L of water in 30 minutes is a real world example, at 31degN latitude in February with 900W/m2 of isolation.
What makes your solar concentrators different from other solar concentrators?
There are a few differences worth noting: they are built from off the shelf components available in every country on earth, no parabolic bending or computations are needed, they are large & powerful designs, but still human scale flexible. Additionally, they are more scalable since once the core technique is mastered, it is easy to modify designs to suit regional needs.
What can you do with solar concentrators?
Simple answer: anything that requires heat, from cooking an egg to drying apples to smelting metals. (Note: Our current models are not designed to melt metal).
Long answer: You can cook (bake, boil, fry, steam, sear, grill, sauté, roast, stew, deep-fry, etc), you can preserve foods (by making jams, jellies, chutneys, by canning food, by dehydrating and drying produce, by pasteurizing) and you can roast (most commonly nuts and beans like coffee, cocoa and peanuts) and create solar thermal steam pressure which can drive mechanical systems (pumps, factory equipment, ventilation, refrigeration and generators).
We’re already done roasting, water purification, baking, fruit drying, frying and steam production. Some of these applications will be included in the construction guides.
If it’s cloudy, does it still work?
Hold your hand in the sunlight, can you see a sharp shadow? If yes, your solar concentrator will work. If no, then I’m afraid you won’t be using clean, renewable solar thermal energy for the moment! These solar concentrators require clear, direct sunlight to function. It’s not a problem in much of our target market where the sun shines clearly for 300+ days out of the year.
How safe are solar concentrators?
Used correctly, solar concentrators are harmless. The same can be said of gas stoves, open fires and biomass boilers, so what happens when things go wrong and what are the chances? When our solar concentrators are in the ‘off’ position, the mirrors are angled at the ground and so cannot burn anything. When properly aligned and in the ‘on’ position the dangers from the focal point are arguably less than an open gas burner. Depending on the application our designs come with a protective shade that makes sure even accidental focal drifts don’t bother the operator. Further, when using glass mirrors, adhesive backing can be applied so that if a mirror gets broken it doesn’t fall to pieces on the ground.
What skills are required to build a solar concentrator?
You need to be able to cut to length, drill holes, be systematic, apply adhesives and paint. GoSol.org’s solar concentrators are normally built using steel (though with some adaptation can be built out of wood and/or bamboo), so welding is a very useful skill to have, though it isn’t strictly necessary. All the components can be assembled using nuts and bolts, but it’s lot of drilling and bolt flanges, so welding is recommended.
How long does it takes to build one?
4-5 days if you have all the materials on hand and access to tools. This varies based on the tools available and your level of experience.
Can you store the energy to use at night?
The smaller the scale of a solar thermal system, the harder it is to store energy. There are, however, a number of methods to store heat, from creating quicklime to using molten salt heat storage. A simple and well established low tech solution known as “heat retention cooking” involves putting hot food in a well insulated container which can keep it very hot for 6hrs+.
Why do you state your machines are not solar cookers?
Because they are so much more than just solar cookers. GoSol.org tech can also power processing heat for a number of productive industries. Solar cooking is an important function, but GoSol.org solar thermal technology bridges the gap between conventional solar cookers and industrial scale solar thermal.
How much space do I need for the for an oven like the one in Haiti?
It needs a circle about 5 meters (15 feet) in diameter, though it doesn’t occupy all that space at once, that’s over the course of a full day’s rotation to follow the sun.
If I use the construction guides to build a solar cooker, how much does it cost?
The guides will be free. Depending on where you are in the world and what kind of access you have to materials, it will cost between $450 and $750 dollars if you build with metal. With wood and bamboo much cheaper.
Do birds get burned by solar concentrators?
No, not at the scale of solar concentrators that we are promoting. It’s like passing your finger through a candle. If you leave your finger there, you’ll get hurt. However, the focal point for large solar concentrating tower type projects is many meters wide and thus can kill birds when they fly through it. Large CSP plants like Ivanpah have this problem. Our focal point is much smaller and under the cook-top where we’ve never seen a bird rest.