Design and Implementation of a Novel Architecture for an Integrated Solar Thermal-Biogas Co-Generation System

EPA Grant Number: SU833171
Title: Design and Implementation of a Novel Architecture for an Integrated Solar Thermal-Biogas Co-Generation System
Investigators: Hemond, Harold F.
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2006 through May 31, 2007
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Our project involves the research, development and demonstration of a design for a modular distributed renewable energy generation system that can be adapted flexibly to use the solar and organic resources available in a region to best accommodate the needs of the inhabitants. Our novel combination of solar thermal, biogas, and micro-scaled thermodynamic cycle technology will guarantee that heat, electricity, cooling capabilities, and hot water can be produced in varying proportions according to demand. The system will be designed with widely available materials in mind to guarantee local manufacture capabilities with the goal of dissemination and distributed replication by energy entrepreneurs in the developing world.


Two modules (solar thermal, ORC engine) were designed and tested at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and then deployed at a technical school in Lesotho in January 2006. The next prototype to be constructed at MIT will improve upon this first iteration while adding the biogas and cooling capabilities. System performance (optical, thermal, chemical, cycle efficiencies; power output/cost) will be measured, a range of system components and operating parameters will be investigated, and the robustness of the system under real weather conditions will be tested. The resulting data set will relate solar energy/organic waste input, system pressure and temperature, power output, and conversion efficiencies from solar/organic energy to heat, cooling, and electrical power. The control system will be tailored using this data to provide maximum energy output for a given resource level, to minimize cost/energy output unit, and to balance output to different modules.

Expected Results:

The immediate goal is a system based on the integration of the suite of modules developed solar thermal, biogas, ORC, absorption-chiller) that can be assembled together to create systems tailored to the unique demands of individual communities and climates, optimized for efficiency, low cost, and robustness. The efficiency data, design, and technical and cost requirements each module will be made available, and the prototype will be demonstrated and promoted, the long-term goal of dissemination and replication by energy entrepreneurs in the developing world. The ultimate goal of this stage is to create a final product ready for field trials collaboration with partners in Lesotho, and in the future, Bangladesh, and the Philippines.

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable development, clean technologies, green energy, RFA, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, sustainable development

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final