247Solar Inc., a spinoff of MIT, along with microturbine supplier Capstone Turbine Corporation, today announced the successful test of a revolutionary commercial turbine that can generate electricity using hot air at atmospheric pressure, without combustion.
This breakthrough is made possible by an ultra-high temperature heat exchanger with technology that has its origins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The 247Solar Heat Exchanger™ uses a proprietary nickel-chromium-aluminum-iron alloy engineered for sustained operation at very high temperatures. For its size, the heat exchanger is the most compact and materials-efficient in the world. Its first application is the best-selling and most reliable small turbine in the world, the C200 microturbine from Capstone Turbine Corporation.
This turbine is the heart of the first operational 247Solar Plant™, being built in California. The Plant includes a system that concentrates sunlight to heat air to a high-enough temperature that is then used to drive the turbine to produce electricity. The microturbine in combination with 247Solar’s technology offers one of the world’s most versatile, reliable, zero-carbon power generation solutions.
The system also includes the 247Solar Thermal Storage System™, which stores the solar heat not used during the day at a fraction of the cost of batteries. The stored heat powers the turbine up to 20 hours at night and on cloudy days, reducing fuel consumption up to 90% — far more than PV and batteries.
To guarantee electricity 24/7, even when there is no solar-heated air available, the turbine includes an optional combustor. The combustor is external to the turbine and can be engineered to burn most liquid and gaseous fuels, including alternative fuels like hydrogen, biogas, butane, renewable natural gas and concentrated solar energy.
“This turbine is the key component that enables us to produce round-the-clock clean power from our hot-air based 247Solar Plants,” says Bruce Anderson, 247Solar’s CEO and solar industry pioneer. “We are delighted to be using a state-of-the-art turbine from Capstone in our first system,” Anderson added.
“Capstone is excited to be working with such innovative companies like 247Solar as the need to shift to greener energy solutions has never been more evident than it is today. In fact, there is a strong argument to be made for a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Europe, as they are already moving ahead in this direction,” said Darren Jamison, President and Chief Executive Officer of Capstone Turbine.
“Whether it’s working with 247Solar to develop a solar-powered microturbine or Argonne National Labs to develop a hydrogen powered microturbine, Capstone believes partnering with smart innovative companies is the fastest way to bring new green energy solutions to market as customers are increasingly requesting ultra-low emission or zero carbon solutions on an ever increasing basis,” added Mr. Jamison.
Engineering development partners include Brayton Energy (Hampton, NH), specialists in high efficiency turbomachinery and gas turbine design, and URSA Energy Solutions (Laguna Niguel, CA).