Breakthrough sustainable clean energy technology gets a field test in forward-thinking Abu Dhabi.


In one of Chromasun’s first international pilot projects, the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority has arranged for the company to demonstrate its commercial solar-powered air conditioning technology.

Chromasun’s unique solar thermal air conditioning system is being installed at a distribution center that manages controls and processes for the utility.

Previously the center’s office air-conditioning was supplied by conventional electric chillers. But these have significant fossil-based peak power demands on hot days. Abu Dhabi is working to green its grid to help in international efforts to prevent climate change. Solar power has zero carbon emissions, and is permanently fuel-free.

In this field-trial, Chromasun is using rooftop-scale solar thermal technology, concentrated with sun-tracking reflectors, to heat a liquid to very high heat – the same way that massive utility-scale solar thermal power plants do.

The Israeli solar thermal pioneer Luz invented the technology 30 years ago, and the formerly Luz-owned big utility-scale SEGs in California still make electricity using this type of solar thermal technology – to focus the sun with mirrors to heat a liquid. It is a proven technology and ideal technology for regions with good insolation. Already, the technology is being pioneered to boost oil field production in the Gulf.

It is the basis for at least nine Recovery Act-powered projects in the US this year. Last year, Iran inaugurated its first CSP solar power plant.

But instead of using the heated liquid to boil water to make steam to drive a turbine to make electricity, like a SEGs-type of power plant, Chromasun will use the super-heated liquid created on a rooftop to power air conditioners, in the commercial building underneath each system.

Chromasun founder Peter Le Lievre has deep experience in utility-scale solar thermal systems, having implemented the first solar thermal add-on to a fossil fired power station at Solar Heat and Power, and as the co-founder of Ausra, which is building a 100 solar thermal MW plant in Jordan. He is scaling-down solar thermal technology to the commercial building market, and using it a new way, to supply air conditioning.

Sealed inside a protective clear cover, Chromasun puts lightweight, highly reflective aluminium mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays between 20 to 25 times, focused on a pipe containing the liquid to be heated. The mirrors pivot in unison to follow the sun. The whole device is sealed inside a clear glass cover to protect the moving mechanism from dust and dirt and any possible objects in motion outside, from wind-driven dust and debris to birds or small animals.

The collectors are put on the roof and they focus the heat of the sun on a liquid, which gets solar heated to 175˚C, and then sent in pipes down to the boiler room in the building, where it is used instead of electrically heated water in a double-effect absorption chiller that converts the heat coming from the panels into chilled water to run through the air conditioning system.

Chromasun already has a 16,000 square-foot assembly plant in San Jose that can put together 10 megawatts of concentrated solar thermal systems per year.