Smart Mirrors can Reduce Solar Energy Costs

On the left – Heliostats arrive on-site in pods, pods are set down and mirrors are quickly and securely snapped into place (Credit: Thermata)
Thermata a Pasadena based green technology startup, developed what it claims to be a real breakthrough in solar power technology using mirrors. By developing small smart mirrors with advanced and wireless sun tracking capabilities, Thermata is hoping to bring down the building and running costs of future solar power plants, making green energy more affordable.
Sun-tracking mirrors, or heliostats have been used for many years to create concentrated heat that can drive a turbine located inside a central solar tower. However, so far this technology was consider expensive and complex due to the need for
 

According to Thermata the “Suncaster Heliostat Pods” have several advantages:

  • Heliostat pods electric motors and electronics are all self-powered via a solar panel (photovoltaic), hence no wires – reducing installation costs.
  • Minimal surface preparation required — the Heliostats can be quickly installed on a roof or ground. They  may be anchored using a ballast or screw anchor but require no structural support or foundations.
  • Each heliostat can be automatically identified and calibrated over a wireless mesh network (using Zigbee technology).
  • Each heliostat is smaller and self-configurable making for a lower cost per square meter solution.
In each Pod there are eight heliostats with a motor operated by two-watt photovoltaic solar panels. Just above each heliostat you can find four “diffusers” (small square mirrors). A high-definition camera located at a distance takes pictures of the diffusers and by using unique algorithms can determine the exact location and angle of the heliostat and optimize the required tilt.
All this bares down to a substantial cost reduction in building and maintaining a solar power plant based on a mirror system. According to Thermata the technology it developed can save about 100 million dollars out of about 600 million dollars it will take to build a large scale solar power plant of this type.
More information on the Suncaster Heliostat Pods can be found on Thermata’s website.
TFOT previously covered many advanced solar technologies including the Australian “EnviroMission” company and its large-scale solar tower capable of supplying electricity to 200,000 typical Australian homes. We also covered SunHopes – an innovative concept for harvesting solar energy in a cost-efficient, environmentally friendly way using helium balloons.