Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

A Novel Solar Thermal Combined Cycle for Distributed Power Generation

EPA Grant Number: SU834367
Title: A Novel Solar Thermal Combined Cycle for Distributed Power Generation
Investigators: Hemond, Harold F.
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2011
Project Amount: $75,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2009) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability



Extensive design, testing, and cost analysis completed in Phase I allowed the team to choose a technology architecture which promises to provide affordable renewable energy for off-grid institutions in developing countries. The next challenge is long-term user and weather testing to demonstrate the utility of the technology in situ with feedback from real users on the architecture, usability, and convenience of the installation unit.


The proposed project will build upon our previous experiences to provide a user-testable solar microgenerator installation in Berea District, Lesotho, in collaboration with our project partners. The proposed unit will provide electricity (~3kW peak) and hot water (~2000 liters/day) for a rural clinic (building and staff houses), extending clinic hours through the night and improving the availability of care for the 50-80 patients seen each day. Technology training and transfer, along with business development support, should lead to the incorporation of a Lesotho-based manufacturer that will be able to supply such systems through market mechanisms by the end of the two-year project period.

Expected Results:

Impacts of this work will be seen in the areas of energy, poverty alleviation, improvement of quality of health care provision and quality of life, business development, and education. We will be directly preventing installation of polluting diesel generators while improving services provided. Access to electricity and hot water has also been shown to substantially increase morale of staff at rural health centers, reducing staff turnover and improving consistency of treatment. Electrical lighting allows nurses to see patients after sundown, while access to hot water promotes improved hygiene in a country where temperatures fall below freezing nightly during the winter months. This will both improve health of the 50-80 patients already seen today while allowing 5-10 additional cases to be visited overnight. Staff are provided a source of warm water for bandage, clothes washing, and bathing, serving to decrease the high incidence of illness during cold winter months. General improvement of the quality of health in these communities will subsequently promote increased potential for working or studying, starting a positive domino effect within the community. Ultimately this technology has the potential to impact millions of people around the world as they reach out for modern forms of energy for the first time, giving them a viable, cheaper alternative to diesel generators or PV.

Supplemental Keywords:

Sustainable development, clean technologies, renewable energy, Lesotho,

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract
Phase 1 Final Report