Factor e Live Distillations – Part 8 – Solar Power Generator

It has been almost a month since we started the Factor e Live Distillations series and the 1000 True Fans – 1000 Global Villages campaign. We have gathered 24 True Fans so far. We have 2 more episodes to go – on the open source product development collaboration process, and on the economic model for open production. We will then summarize the series in the final episode – as a call for action. We will then begin a concerted marketing effort for the 1000 True Fans campaign, with a goal of gathering the 1000 True Fans within 6 months. The countdown is on. We have 702 days left to complete the basic pieces of the Global Village Construction Set.

Today’s episode outlines our work on the Solar Power Generator. This is our solar thermal concentrator – which uses linear reflectors to power a simple steam engine for making electricity. This was formerly called the Solar Turbine – because we thought, erroneously, that the Tesla turbine should be the heat engine of choice.

We outline a program necessary to deliver $1/watt solar electricity with this system. The experts scream that this is impossible on the small scale. We agree with them wholeheartedly – if we use the same assumptions as they are. Our assumptions are different, however. We are phrasing the problem simply by stating a set of conditions that have to be met to achieve this cost prediction. We are applying the conditions to a particular system design, and calculating costs and performances based on available components and industry standards. We are then making conclusions on the required costs of each component – as applied to the overall system – to make the overall cost prediction a reality.

Our question reduces to this: are the predicted costs achievable? Absolutely, if we base the analysis on materials cost and digital fabrication techniques. Are we going to achieve these? This questions boils down to – are you going to help make this happen – and can we gather the necessary collaboration?

This puts the validity of digital fabrication, open souce design, and open collaboration to a real test. Are the grand promises of a Mini-China on a Desktop fiction, or are they real? We’ll know much more after Open Solar 2, the second convergence on solar power at Factor e Farm, Aug. 1-31, 2009.

The enabling feature that we have working for us in this project is the feasibility of cheap electronic controls for many of the components. The entire project requires zero invention – just the integration of a number of particular components into a very particular package. It’s all based on proven technique, and the project boils down to opensourcing various components for cost reduction. Is this going to be easy? Short answer is no, and the long answer is that it depends on how you look at it. From an open source mindset, it means collecting the necessary components for a very important problem. From the proprietary mindset, it means solving a bunch of engineering issues with questionable reward. Enough said.

Our work in general is aimed at building the infrastructure for real-life Global Villages – which you can replicate in whole or in part. You can also see our earlier presentation on the Global Village Construction Set. To support this work, join the 1000 True Fans – 1000 Global Villages campaign – by committing to $10 per month for 24 months. Here is the PayPal subscription button, where you can use either PayPal, credit card, or bank account to commit to the subscription.

See the wiki for a transcript of this video. The transcript offers additional pictures, links, and explanation beyond what’s found in the video, so be sure to review the transcript if you are interested in learning all that we know so far. Perhaps the first place to go for clearing up many questions is the Open Solar 2 Frequently Asked Questions. We are taking this project seriously because of its potential, and we understand that the proposition is extremely forward-thinking. As such, we ask you to post informed critique on any explicit points of our work – either after this blog post or on our wiki.

We are convinced that what we are proposing is doable. The question is, are we all willing to create the infrastructure to make low-cost fabrication of the solar generator a reality? We know that mass production could make such system feasible. Could it also be done via a community supported manufacturing model? We think so. Solar power is too important to continue in its obscurity. We also tend to think that Factor e Farm will be the world’s first, replicable community supported manufacturing operation. May 1, 2009 will show this with the CEB press as the first product – update on this process forthcoming. On to the video.

1 Comment

  1. Seekgaile

    Your site does not correctly work in safari browser

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