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Solixi – Solar energy done right

25 maaliskuun, 2015

Given the recent popularity Solixi has received with its product videos, I felt compelled to translate my earlier post to English.

I have been involved in the Solixi project right when it was starting back in 2011 and more recently beginning in 2015, mainly doing communications-related stuff. Solixi was born from an idea that in order to place a solar collector on sub-optimal roof, it needs a kind of supporting rack that can be installed on any roof. It has since been developed much, much further, with various patents pending (and some already approved).

To put it shortly, I think that Solixi is how solar energy should be done (hence the slogan: Solar done right). It is thought thoroughly, optimized in every way, fits on almost any roof, and works even in northern latitudes. It also works as an energy storage, optimizes energy savings automatically and can be installed to work with most existing water-circulation based systems. It is assembled from standard parts and does not require any exotic or rare minerals.

Solixi can be divided roughly to three parts.

collector frame

Collector frame of the 2013 proto

The first is Solixi concentrator – a kind of micro-CSP (Concentrated solar power) that is built around a two-sided solar collector (or two one-sided put together). The collector is put on a frame that can be installed on almost any kind of roof. The frame lifts the collector above the rooftop (less shadows) so that it faces south and is in an optimal angle (which for Solixi is around 60 degrees). It is all modular and easy to assemble – no welding required.

A setup with the mirrors

A setup with the mirrors

Behind it are installed heliostats – mirrors that follow the sun and always reflect the sun’s rays to the collector’s backside. The amount and size of the mirrors depend on the model chosen and power required. They are metal-sheets, fixed to actuators – motors that turn the mirrors to follow the sun. These heliostats always reflect the suns rays to the backside of the collector, and with many such mirrors, one gets concentrated solar. With these two simple concepts – the frame and turning mirrors – the production one gets from a single collector can be multiplied many times, cost effectively. As the mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays, the collector can produce energy even on cloudy days and in seasons when the sun shines less. In fact, Solixi aims for maximal production between autumn and spring, since at summer the production from the collector is often enough. In the summer, when the boiler (more below) is full, the mirrors can be turned to reflect the sun’s rays back to space. It even helps to keep the building cooler during heat waves. The smart Solixi controller, together with the actuators, knows many other tricks also, from defrosting the mirrors with hot air, to ditching snow from the mirrors to turning to storm-position.

The second part is the Solixi boiler. It is not a regular boiler though. It is oversized compared to traditional boilers, it has many tanks connected to each other (with heat pumps) and it is controlled with the Solixi controller. It is oversized so it can operate as an energy storage for Solixi collector, usually with enough capacity for days or regular use. So when is gets cloudy for a few days, there is still solar energy stored away for several days of use. There are multiple tanks, which can have small heat pumps so that energy can be moved effectively from one tank to another. So in the summer, the bottom tank actually has cold water that can be used for cooling the building. Then again, the energy from the cooling is again recycled and moved to a higher tank so it can be used for showers and such. If there is simply too much hot water in the summer, some can be released down the drain to enable cooling for the building.

During winter, Solixi concentrator is used to get any available energy from the sun. When people take a shower, the heat is recovered from the water before it is released to the drain. The same is done with air ventilation – only cold air and water gets released from the building, as all available energy is recycled over and over again. During the darkest and coldest months, even this is not always enough. Solixi controller is programmed with usage statistics, and can get weather forecasts and energy prices from the internet. It then aims to store energy (heat the water in the tanks) whenever energy is cheap, and discharge energy for use when it is expensive. It can offer flexible demand, controlled with different variables like energy prices and demand models (we know when people usually take showers, for example). It works well with most energy systems; it can help with intermittent wind power – load energy when its windy or sunny, and discharge when its cloudy and the wind has died. Even base load power such as nuclear (perhaps the only base load power that is truly low-carbon) benefits when the demand (and price) for energy is more stable.

The third part is all the rest. Solixi boiler can be delivered in standard containers, and it can be installed outside the house, under- or above ground level. It can be of any size, with capacity for a single home to an apartment building, with as many or as few tanks as needed. It can be installed with any water-based system to offer heating for spaces and hot water for use. It can be used with district heating, electric heater, heat pumps, flow-through heater (usually electricity or natural gas) or with a burner that is already installed. With these it will optimize energy prices automatically and takes energy always where it is cheapest. The controller has different operation modes for different months, based on demand forecasts and for example solar insolation levels. It can also be used to cool the building, and it recycles the energy again and again from both waste water and air ventilation.

One can also attach a small pellet-burner with storage to Solixi to make it even more independent on grid power or heat. One can also install solar PV panels instead of some or all of the mirrors, and it is even possible to install these for the summer and then switch back to mirrors when autumn comes. With PV panels, Solixi takes its power needs from the sun, and it can have a small battery to store some electricity for operating the various pumps and electrics.

The parts are standard lock nuts and bolts, flow-through pumps, heat exchangers, bars and mirrors. No rare earth minerals or other exotic stuff. Just some smart programming combined with traditional construction and air/water systems. It is what solar energy looks like after it has been carefully thought and rethought by a relentless engineer – or as in this case, a relentless inventor.

To put is shortly, it is solar energy done right.

Below are the first three YouTube-videos that went quite viral in just a few days around the world, getting tens of thousands of views each.  All this without a single hit song, bikini girl or cute cat. Check them out, let me know what you think. Here is a link to the press release on them, as published by BusinessWire.

Solixi concentrator:

Solisi energy storage:

Solixi controller & muut:

One Comment
  1. kerberos616 permalink

    Reblogged this on Kerberos616.


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