Often, the best way to build excitement around a new idea is to prove that it works. This is exactly why 3M partnered with Gossamer Space Frames to build the Large Aperture Trough 73, the world’s largest parabolic trough solar collector. Unveiled in May, the LAT 73 is installed at Cogentrix Energy’s Sunray facility in Daggett, Calif., where it adds approximately 275 kilowatts of additional electricity to the plant’s total output.
“Because we’re working with such a new technology, we knew we had to take it out of the lab and put it in a working power plant,” explained Dan Chen, business development manager, Renewable Energy Division. “We hope the new technology will help generate interest in solar power and show that it can be affordable.”
A parabolic trough solar collector works by using reflector panels to focus concentrated sunlight in order to produce heat. This heat is used to turn water into steam, which drives a turbine that generates electricity.
The reflector panels in the LAT 73 are made from 3M™ Solar Mirror Film 1100, which offers superior optical performance at a significantly reduced weight. Together with mechanical design innovations from partner Gossamer Space Frames, the 3M film helps make the new solar collector the most affordable parabolic trough on the market, with cost savings of up to 25 percent.
“Our partnership with Gossamer is a classic example of how large and small companies can work together to drive innovation,” said Chen. “Together, we are leading the industry in a new cost-reduction trend.”
Getting in the ‘ecosystem’
The LAT 73 launch also provided an important opportunity for 3M to raise its profile in the solar energy industry.
“Major stakeholders including Southern California Edison were at the ribbon-cutting celebration, and it also received attention from the local media,” Chen said. “It was a great way for us to get into the solar energy ecosystem and build strong connections with some of the industry’s key players.”