Sunvapor, Inc. announced they are developing a Solar Steam on Demand solution that enables distillation equipment to operate continuously, even when the sun isn’t shining.
The DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) selected the company to receive $1.5 million in funding for Solar Steam on Demand. Sunvapor is one of 14 solar-thermal desalination projects chosen for reducing the cost of the technology and helping the technology to reach new markets, including off-grid areas.
Desalinating inland brackish water requires a reverse osmosis alternative, but a cost-effective renewable evaporative process has been elusive due to high heat input costs, according to Livermore, California-based Sunvapor. With their solution, the levelized cost of heat for continuously operating distillation equipment will be 1.5¢ per kilowatt-hour, the company says.
Sunvapor describes their solution as using a solar steam architecture that delivers saturated steam pressure at 11 bar as well as thermal energy storage, allowing the distillation equipment to run on solar at night.
“These steam conditions precisely match those needed for most industrial applications such as food processing and refineries,” according to Sunvapor. A prototype solar steam plant will first be deployed for a food processing application, where the tech company sees a need for GHG reductions.
Brandon Clement, general manager of Los Gatos Tomato Products, noted that producing tomato paste at scale requires a significant amount of natural gas to generate hundreds steam every hour in evaporators.
“We believe that Sunvapor’s Solar Steam on Demand has the potential to provide an economically viable reduction to our greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “By generating steam at night from thermal energy storage we can see a path to exiting cap and trade altogether.”
Engineering on the Sunvapor solution is planned to start in the fourth quarter of 2018. Performance testing on the completed prototype plant will take place through the first quarter of 2021, the company says. “The project will serve as a reference for the development of replica solar steam plants with storage throughout California and other states with adequate solar resource.”