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Larkfleet installs solar steam rig

16th December 2013

Larkfleet Group is aiming to help tackle global warming and generate 'carbon-free' electricity with an experimental solar power system that has been installed alongside its headquarters in Bourne, Lincolnshire.

The 'solar steam' system consists of panels which focus the sun's rays onto metal tubes filled with water. This heat can be harnessed to heat water or to produce steam which can be used to drive a generator to produce electricity.

The panels are mounted on a rig which will rotate to track the movement of the sun through the sky during the day.

The installation alongside Larkfleet House will produce only a small amount of steam for experimental purposes. One of the objectives is to test the effectiveness of the equipment in British winter conditions – it should be possible to produce some power even on cold and cloudy days. If the equipment proves to be successful, however, the major market is likely to be in warmer countries where there is sunshine for long periods of the year.

At full scale the hope is for the system to be used alongside traditional power stations which raise steam by burning fossil fuels. The solar steam can be fed to the power station generators so that fuel will need to be burned only at night or on days when solar power is not enough to meet demand. In the immediate future, however, the project team will be investigating a range of smaller scale applications.

The system might also be used to desalinate sea water or purify polluted water to produce clean drinking water.

Karl Hick, Larkfleet Group chief executive, said: "The solar steam rig provides an opportunity for investigation into a new method of low carbon energy generation and is just another example of Larkfleet's commitment to innovation and energy efficiency.

"Larkfleet will use this as a research and development opportunity and hopes to gain a better understanding of the technology involved and its possible uses. This is very much a long-term project – we will trial the technology fully over the next couple of years before coming to any conclusions about the potential for future use."

Larkfleet Group is a privately-owned house building and development organisation with a strong record in creating high quality homes and communities. It specialises in building high-quality, energy-efficient housing and continually invests in research and the development of innovative new sustainable building designs, materials and construction methods.

It is also a major developer of sustainable energy projects and a provider of energy-efficiency improvements for new and existing buildings. It is currently developing large photovoltaic (PV) 'solar farms', adding PV panels to new and existing buildings at a variety of scales, and refurbishing existing homes to reduce their carbon footprint, energy use and energy costs.

The experimental solar steam system at Bourne sits alongside two other innovative Larkfleet projects – the Larkfleet Green Deal Eco House and the Larkfleet PassiveHouse – helping to create a local 'renewable hub' next to the company's head office.

The Green Deal Eco House demonstrates how buildings can incorporate both Green Deal and ECO funded energy saving measures in housing and commercial buildings.

The Larkfleet PassiveHouse shows how lightweight pultruded glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) composite beams and panels could revolutionise the way in which homes are built. The house is designed to be 'factory built' using modular components that can be mass produced off site and then easily installed on site with minimal labour and site waste, allowing the building to be completed in much less time than a traditionally built house.

Karl Hick added: "The solar steam experiment complements the innovative, energy-efficient technologies demonstrated in these houses and further establishes Larkfleet's reputation as a leader in low carbon technologies."

The experimental solar steam rig measures just over 13 metres (42 feet) long by 5.5 metres (18 feet) high when extended to its maximum. Full-size systems will be very much larger.

South Kesteven District Council has granted temporary planning consent for the experimental system to be in place for three years.

The solar steam system is the brainchild of engineer and inventor David Boyle, director of Solar Steel Ltd