A dish/Stirling system consists of a wide-diameter parabolic mirror with a Stirling-type external combustion motor installed in its focal area. The parabolic dish-mirror continuously tracks the sun, so that the sun’s rays are reflected onto its focal plane, obtaining a Gaussian-shape concentrated solar energy map and several tens of kW. The Stirling motor is an external combustion motor that employs the thermodynamic cycle of the same name and that has two advantages that make it appropriate for this application:

  • Combustion is external, that is, the energy contribution from sunlight is collected by the parabolic dish and concentrated on its focal zone in a high-performance thermodynamic cycle.
  • An alternator is connected to the Stirling motor so that the light energy can be transformed into electricity or delivered to a nearby application for direct consumption right in the same block at the focus of the concentrating dish.

The most obvious application of dish/Stirling systems is the production of electricity for self-producers in remote areas or rural communities where there is no grid, for pumping water, etc. The optimum niche on the energy market would be a power range of a few tens of kilowatts, where it would compete with the already commercial photovoltaic systems or diesel generators.

Since the beginning of activities in 1992, three generations of prototypes have been erected and routinely operated at the PSA for their technical evaluation: