When it comes to the fundamentals of education, there are the “three Rs”: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic.
Environmentalism’s Three Rs: Reduce use; Reuse things; Recycle as much as possible.
And, for energy, there are these Three Rs: Reduce use (via efficiency and conservation); Renewable power as much as possible; Remediate for any use of non-renewable power sources.
SolFocus has a concentrated solar power (CSP) system
The primary and secondary mirrors focus the sun’s energy 500 times onto the optical rod, which guides the light onto the high-efficiency solar cell that is more than twice as efficient as the average silicon cell.
Actually, it is thus a concentrated solar photo-voltaiic (CPV) system rather CSP …
The CPV structure is put on a dual-axis tracking system to track the sun while concentrating the sun’s rays onto photo-voltaiics, thus significantly upping the power output per every photo-voltaiic element. SolFocus claims this as a 40 increase in PV element output.
When it comes to PV systems, the PV elements are generally the highest cost, thus upping the power output through the use of less expensive materials can reduce (even significantly) the cost per generated kilowatt hour of electricity. SolFocus is laying out a strategy for their CPV systems to attain cost parity (or even beat) traditional fossil-fuel energy systems, even without a price on carbon.
Using just 1/1,000th the active material found in a standard solar panel, over 95 percent of the system is aluminum and glass both of which are easily sourced and formed worldwide, making the technology highly scaleable. The streamlined design is also fully enclosed which protects critical components from environmental degradation. In combination, these factors result in a system which is very high output and highly reliable, two key components in achieving the critical factor of cost-parity to fossil fuel energy.
As one impressive element, SolFocus’s CSP system can be almost entirely from recycled products: 97% of its weight is aluminum and glass. Imagine the cans and bottles from your curbside recycling collection ending up in solar power systems in their next lives.
Thus, it seems that SolFocus paid attention to their educational Three Rs as they seem to be getting the fundamentals right. When it comes to Environmentalism’s and Energy’s Three Rs, SolFocus is starting to look rather Energy Smart, as their product Reuses Recycled materials to produce Renewable power. Three critical Rs. That is pretty good. (And, you can argue that the concentration and tracking of the sun ‘Reuses’ the PV to far more efficiently produce Renewable power.) And, the Energy Smart person will seek to reduce energy usage before even turning on the switch (thus, “Reduce” should be covered) and, if using SolFocus/solar power, “Remediate” doesn’t need to even be on the table.
One result of SolFocus’s getting their Rs right is the potential that their cradle-to-grave carbon footprint could be quite low. According to discussions with SolFocus staff at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC), their preliminary (not yet finished) analyses suggest that they might have the lowest cradle-to-grave carbon footprint of any renewable energy option (that means of any energy option) available at this time. If true, this makes SolFocus’ cost-effective option for solar electricity just that much more appealing.