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Newsletter Δεκέμβριος 2011

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Innovative Solar Technology

Brenda McCabe, Director of Infinia Solar, discusses the PowerDish, an innovative solar power generating product, and its potential for Greece.





Please tell us briefly about Infinia.
Infinia Corporation (www.infiniacorp.com) is an energy technology company commercializing the PowerDish™, a solar power generating product that converts concentrated solar energy into electricity. We are a privately held company and have raised 150 million dollars to date. We continue to raise capital for final commercial deployment.

With over 27 years of experience in designing and manufacturing Free Piston Stirling Engines, our first 20 years were dedicated to producing reliable, maintenance free Engines for extreme environments, like space and the desert, where the FPSE technology provides continuous operation for NASA  and Department of Defense applications, respectively.

Only 5 years ago, Infinia began designing a solar product based on our proprietary Stirling engine and targeting the forecasted 15% worldwide potential of solar within the energy mix.  Rather than building new factories to provide the components, Infinia chose to partner with world class manufacturing companies, mostly in the automotive industry, so as to leverage their existing production facilities.

With automotive style production techniques – precision tooling and high volumes – we can scale volume and lower costs in a dramatic manner.  Finally Infinia markets to solar asset developers in strategic markets as defined by high direct normal solar insolation (watts /m2) or attractive carve outs including feed in tariffs and capex grants.

What differentiates your technology from other solar applications?
Unlike other solar thermal electric technologies, the PowerDish™ (i) does not require water for operation, (ii) can be deployed on uneven terrain, (iii) can be scalable in sizes ranging from a few kWs to hundreds of MWs enabling it to make optimal use of the existing transmission facilities, (iv) low land use per deployed MW, and (v) provides customers with a lower Levelized cost of energy.  Further, we find that current technologies competing in the solar space:
- Have lower product / system conversion efficiencies (the best PV has about 16% sun-to-grid peak AC efficiency while the PowerDish  converts solar energy to grid electricity at 24% efficiency);
- Require large capital requirements to build and operate manufacturing facilities to produce the raw materials, such as high grade silicon, required for solar panels when the PowerDish has a highly differentiated, low capital intensity profile. By tooling up suppliers we effectively subcontract a “Virtual Factory” which allows for rapid expansion with minimal capital requirements.

How are you able to leverage local manufacturing in the countries in which you operate and invest?
Over time Infinia believes the local content of the PowerDish in the European market could reach up to 60% of the total product cost thereby providing stimulus to the local economy while saving on transportation costs.

The flexible manufacturing approach adopted by Infinia for the PowerDish production enables significant local content to be considered.  The support structure of the concentrator, composed of metal truss elements, along with other major components of the PowerDish, such as the mirrors (glass), wire, pumps, fans, radiators, and inverters might be manufactured competitively in various European countries.  The PowerDish will be assembled at the project site using local labour and leveraging production and construction techniques that are industrialized across the world today.

What is the environmental impact of your technology?
The footprint of the PowerDish is similar to that of tracking PV with efficient use of land (1MW requires between 1.9 and up to 3.5 hectares)

There is no need for water for operations, beyond that required for cleaning of the concentrator, due to the unique closed loop cooling system proprietary to the PowerDish.

The PowerDish has no toxic materials in the system and can be completely recycled at end of life.

What opportunities do you see in Greece for Infinia?
Available Land and water in many countries are barriers to CSP technologies. The Stirling Engine and Infinia’s PowerDish in particular address these issues.  The required land is less than that required by single axis PV system and is not required to be “pool table” flat as with most other solar technologies.  Further, in contrast to trough, tower and Fresnel, the PowerDish does not require water for operations.
The PowerDish is well suited to the land available in Greece (small land ownership) and the environmental requirements, particularly including low water usage and distributed close to transmission lines, are attributes of the PowerDish.

Greece provides a market with acceptable direct solar insolation at several locations with attractive solar carve outs including feed in tariffs and capex grants. Furthermore, there is an opportunity for an award in the 2nd quarter of 2012 to a Greek solar asset developer for an Infinia PowerDish project submitted to the European Commission for NER300 funds.