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Larkfleet hopes innovative 'solar steam' device will cut cost of renewables

5th August 2015

Housing developer Larkfleet Group has started testing its pioneering "solar steam" device, in what it hopes will mark a major breakthrough for the solar technology sector.

The sustainable housing firm announced yesterday that it has started trials of the technology, which uses a collection of giant plastic lenses to boil piped water using concentrated sunshine, at its offices in Lincolnshire.

The project is currently experimenting with a small-scale version of the rig, measuring 13 metres wide by 5.5 metres high, which will gather data over the summer in order to pave the way for the development of the full-size technology.

The company said it plans to test the effectiveness of the technology and assess the potential market for solar steam as a way of generating electricity by driving a turbine.

Simone Perini, a solar energy expert who joined Larkfleet's research and development team from Cranfield University last year, maintained the technology has the potential to be cheaper than other renewable energy generation systems.

"The principle is already proved and we are now looking at enhancing the tracking system to make it fully automatic," he said. "Lenses are less expensive to produce than vast arrays of glass mirrors now being used on comparable power generation systems throughout the world. It is challenging but a lot of work has been done already and it is an innovative project with great potential."

The company hopes its technology will one day be viable enough to be integrated with existing solar and gas power stations to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, joining an emerging trend towards hybrid power stations.

Karl Hick, chief executive of Larkfleet, said the device would operate during the day, feeding steam into the power station, so that gas or coal would only need to be burned at night or on cloudy days.

A power station of this type could prove similar to Enel Green Energy's recent integration of biomass and geothermal energy sources at a plant in Italy, which is estimated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 130,000 tonnes.