Larkfleet Solar Steam patent creates renewable power investment opportunities

Lark Energy has been granted a UK patent for a revolutionary renewable solar thermal system.

Dubbed ‘solar steam’, the Larkfleet technology concentrates the power of the sun’s rays to heat water to create steam which can be used in industrial processes.

The grant of the patent marks the completion of the first stage in the development of solar steam in the UK. Lark Energy is now seeking to deploy the technology internationally on a commercial basis. The company has filed an application for a patent in the European Union and in India.

Potential for renewable power generation using a solar steam array is greatest in sunny regions like southern Europe and Asia. India alone has an estimated potential of between 700 and 2,100 GW of capacity using a solar steam system.

This potential provides an opportunity for energy companies to invest in solar steam in order to increase renewable heat input and reduce energy costs. For example, industrial facilities that use fossil fuels to provide the thermal energy required for their processes can instead install the Larkfleet solar steam collector to generate low carbon heat.

Solar steam works by focussing the sun’s rays through a Fresnel lens array onto a tube which contains water. The water is heated to create steam which can be used in industrial process heating and cooling applications.

The angle of the lens array can be adjusted through a vertical axis to track the sun and is seated on a circular track which allows the array also to follow the sun’s progress horizontally across the sky. By tracking in both planes, the system maintains maximum levels of solar radiation concentrated on the tubes.

Simone Perini, renewable energy development engineer at Lark Energy, said: “Solar steam builds on existing ideas about using solar radiation to generate heat and takes them a step further.

“The initial development of the project is complete. We are now seeking to take this technology to a wider market where we believe it will have a positive impact on the generation of sustainable and renewable heat.”

The solar steam array can be used in desalination, the process of removing salt from water to make it potable. This is of particular value in coastal countries with water shortages like India.

The two main methods of desalination are reverse osmosis – forcing water through a membrane to collect contaminants – and multistage flash.

The multistage flash method uses heat to convert salt water into fresh water. ‘Flash’ refers to rapidly bringing the water to a boil multiple times or in stages. As the salt water enters each stage of the conversion unit it is subjected to externally supplied steam heat and pressure. During each stage, fresh water vapour forms and is collected.

“Solar steam used in the desalination process will have a lower environmental impact because it is renewable and sustainable way of delivering the steam needed in the Flash method,” said Simone Perini.

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