Energy Transport Fuels
The Big Dish’s ability to focus direct beam radiation from the sun to concentrations in excess of 2,000 times allows it to deliver high and ultra-high temperature applications. With temperatures in excess of 1,500oC possible, Big Dishes are able to drive chemical reactions and other industrial heat applications that are not possible with other solar technologies.
The trajectory of oil prices, national energy security concerns and greenhouse gas reduction targets mean that synthetic fuels are a significant emerging product. Plants are being developed around the world to make carbon-based synthetic transport fuels. The processes involved typically require a high temperature heat source, such as can be provided by the Wizard Power Big Dish. Other international R&D efforts are focussed on new ways of producing hydrogen, in anticipation of a transition to the “hydrogen economy”, and again these processes often require a high temperature heat source.
Wizard Power has undertaken research to identify suitable applications that are best suited to take advantage of the high temperature Big Dishes can provide, to produce both carbon-based liquid fuels and hydrogen for energy transportation. Possible applications of interest include steam gasification of coal, lignite or biomass, solar assisted reforming of methane, high temperature co-electrolysis of carbon dioxide and water, supercritical steam conversion of biomass, chemical cycles such as two step cycles with solid state reactions of metal oxides, and more.
While many of these processes allow a non-fossil fuel route to energy transport fuels via hydrogen, the use of high temperature solar energy from dishes in carbon-based fuels can be used as part of a transition strategy to the hydrogen economy. For example, gasification of coal or lignite allows about 30% of the energy content of the product synthetic fuel to come from the sun. This means less carbonaceous material use, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and provides a large value-add to carbon-based feedstocks like coal and a transition path to cleaner fuels. The synergies between high-temperature solar and existing CTL processes enable a value-adding relationship between the solar and fossil fuel industries.
Current methods for hydrogen production also require ultra high temperatures. While the hydrogen economy is a longer term prospect, the temperatures generated by the Wizard Power Big Dish will be available when large commercial hydrogen production is required.
Wizard Power has developed a number of partnerships with experts in these areas to explore the varied opportunities to use the high and ultra-high temperatures generated by the Big Dish for more than just electricity production.