Over the years, researchers from around the globe have been working hard to improve solar power technologies. While many have focused their attention on creating efficient solar panels, others have directed their efforts elsewhere. Solar power startup Thermata for example has engineered high-tech heliostats that hope to cut costs in solar power production.
The company just finished its initial test run on a new system that could cut costs in half for heliostat production in future solar power plants. Thermata's heliostats feature a system of mirrors that use sophisticated camera and microprocessor technologies to pin-point the perfect angle for their sun-tracking activities.
In most solar tower power plants, thousands upon thousands of heliostats are positioned around the tower to concentrate sunlight at a specific point in the tower, generating steam to power a turbine which produces electricity. The current problem is that most heliostats are heavy-duty pieces of equipment, meaning a plant with hundreds of thousands of mirrors costs a whole lot of money.
Thermata's heliostats on the other hand, feature a much smaller and lighter design that also functions wirelessly. According to the company's executives, a camera is placed further away which snaps photos of the mirrors. Based on the light patterns and glare reflected from the company's mirrors, the system is able to optimize the tilt of the mirrors.
Based on Thermata's estimates, this system of high-tech heliostats can shave roughly $100 million off the cost of a $600 million solar power plant alone based on the savings from heliostats, wiring and labor.