Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


DIGESPO — Result In Brief

Project ID: 241267
Funded under: FP7-ENERGY
Country: Italy

A natural choice for small building needs

The Sun is nature's nuclear reactor, providing virtually limitless energy through fusion processes. Scientists are harnessing its energy and converting it to electricity, heating and cooling for small buildings in a high-efficiency solution.
A natural choice for small building needs
Electricity production generates a lot of heat that is typically lost to the environment. Harnessing that thermal energy to heat buildings in combined heat and power (CHP) systems is a very efficient way to provide both either on-site or close to it. With local production of energy, efficiency losses through the distribution process are also eliminated.

CHP is fuel-neutral, meaning it can work with fossil fuels or renewable forms of energy with varying efficiencies. One concept gaining ground is the use of concentrated solar power (CSP) that uses mirrors to focus the Sun's rays, convert the light energy to heat energy and use it to drive a turbine to generate electrical power.

Many technical advances have been achieved in large-scale parabolic trough solar concentrators. Scientists are modifying and enhancing relevant components and integrating a novel heat engine for small-scale applications with EU funding of the project 'Distributed CHP generation from small size concentrated solar power' (DIGESPO). The goal is a CSP micro-CHP (m-CHP) system capable of providing electricity, heating and cooling for small buildings such as homes, apartment buildings, and commercial and public offices.

Researchers have made major improvements to the CSP system and engine and are fast approaching the demonstration phase. They produced a novel high-absorption coating that has been upscaled and incorporated into full-scale solar receivers with great success. New flexible mirrors for the concentrated optics have increased optical efficiency and the full system has been integrated into four full modules. Finally, scientists are currently manufacturing a newly designed, high-energy density heat engine and the demonstration site is awaiting its delivery and integration.

DIGESPO expects to deliver novel CSP m-CHP solar technology with overall efficiency in excess of 65 % for electricity, heating and cooling of small buildings. The Sun is about the most renewable energy resource one can imagine. Using it to provide an all-in-one solution for small buildings is an alternative worth considering.

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