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Old 08-11-2012, 08:30 PM   #1
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Solar Steam Generator

Ran into this while researching something else...
convert satellite dish into a solar steam generator. I thought it might get a few of you thinking since you can find DISH and DirecTV mini dishes in many trash cans (apt buildings) and yard sales for free or next to nothing. I know nothing about solar steam generators but I do know the gas station that I can see on the corner from us is currently at $3.499/gallon gas. I don't know how easy it would be to tote a solar steam generator around on the back of a skoolie, but it is an interesting idea. Perhaps for a fixed home base later down the road? It would be a use for that DISH we have stored.....
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Old 08-15-2012, 08:56 AM   #2
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Re: Solar Steam Generator

I have thought about doing something like that for a while. When I was a kid I set up a solar cooker out of cardboard and aluminum foil. It cooked hot dogs pretty good

Anyone who is into experimenting with this be careful though; even a solar collector the size of a directv dish can start a fire (or cook some skin) by focusing the sun in the wrong spot.
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Old 09-30-2012, 10:31 PM   #3
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Re: Solar Steam Generator

If built correctly, it has the potential to outperform photovoltaic panels ("solar cells") of identical surface area (not counting the mounting frame or engine/generator). If I recall correctly, the current technologies convert between 7% and 23% of the energy hitting them into electricity, depending on materials. For example, the flexible backpack or roll-up units trade convenience over efficiency. I don't remember the efficiency of solar heating, but I think that it is closer to 50%-60%. You are starting out with twice as much harvested energy for the same size collection area, but with the published design you have friction losses in the "steam engine," the belt drive, and the permanent magnet generator/alternator in addition to the battery charging losses either system would have.

When all is said and done, you may get as much usable power out of a photovoltaic array with the same surface area as the dish contraption, and with much less maintenance. Also, to get maximum power, you would need to keep re-aiming the dish all day to follow the solar arc. Sunlight hitting a "solar cell" at an angle other than perpendicular still produces power at a reduced percentage. Sunlight hitting a fixed dish at an off angle moves the focused hot spot somewhere other than on the surface of the author's black can.

I do appreciate seeing people think "outside the box," though. A purpose-built integrated collector together with an azimuth tracking dish support may be much more efficient than the science project described. I recall seeing design ideas for using external combustion Stirling engines powered by solar reflectors in Popular Science as far back as 40 years ago.

I don't think the author actually built what he was describing. I would expect to see photos if he had a working model.

Plus, size matters. The amount of power gathered depends on the area of the device collecting the sunlight. An old 12-foot back yard dish would have 16 times the collection surface area compared to the 3-foot dish mentioned in the materials list, and would be a much better choice for a practical project.
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Old 10-01-2012, 10:45 AM   #4
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Re: Solar Steam Generator

Quote:
Originally Posted by Redbear
... Also, to get maximum power, you would need to keep re-aiming the dish all day to follow the solar arc.... An old 12-foot back yard dish would have 16 times the collection surface area compared to the 3-foot dish mentioned in the materials list, and would be a much better choice for a practical project.
You could probably use a solar array tracker to track the sun.

As for using a "fullsized" parabolic satellite dish... If we could haul one of the 8.5ft dishes around with us, I would we watching TV off our old C-Band dish with the a la carte programming package we had. As it is, we are watching crummy cable. I hate cable. One day I will get the DISH set back up and get the 250+ package so I can get the few channels I like.
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