A Novel Solar Thermal Combined Cycle with Bio-Methane Carbon Capture for Distributed Power Generation

EPA Grant Number: SU833918
Title: A Novel Solar Thermal Combined Cycle with Bio-Methane Carbon Capture for Distributed Power Generation
Investigators: Hemond, Harold F.
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2008 through August 31, 2009
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


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 concentrating solar thermal, biogas, and algal CO2 sequestration technologies will increase the efficiency and decrease the CO2 load to the atmosphere of a traditional diesel generator. Co-generation using a bottoming-cycle ORC provides additional power and hot water resources. Alternatively, the solar thermal ORC can provide electricity and hot water as a stand-alone unit on days of decreased demand or high solar insolation. The system will be designed with widely available materials to promote local manufacture, distribution, and dissemination by energy entrepreneurs in the developing world.


Two modules (solar thermal, ORC engine) were designed and tested at MIT and then deployed at a school and in a village in Lesotho (with support from the World Bank, Development Marketplace 2006). The next prototype to be constructed at MIT will improve upon this first iteration by adding hybridization with a diesel generator, to improve infrastructure already in place across the globe, in addition to research into CO2 recycling via a algal CO2 sequestration unit and a traditional bio-digester. 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. Both the stand-alone solar thermal ORC unit and the diesel generator hybridized unit will be characterized. A control methodology will be developed to balance system resources and required outputs. System level designs will be made for a fully-integrated CO2 feedback system, based on bench-testing of bio-digester and algal sequestration modules. The final data set will relate solar energy, fuel inputs, system pressure and temperature, power output, and conversion efficiencies from solar/organic energy to heat, cooling, and electrical power.

Expected Results:

The immediate goal is the integration of a solar thermal ORC system with a traditional diesel generator set to improve efficiency of both systems. Investigation into the addition of algal CO2 sequestration and biogas digester modules will complete a low-carbon use system architecture.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 11 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Sustainable development, clean technologies, green energy,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Environmental Chemistry, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, alternative materials, biomass, energy efficiency, energy technology, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, alternative energy source

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract
STG International Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

2009 Progress Report
Final Report

P3 Phase II:

A Novel Solar Thermal Combined Cycle for Distributed Power Generation