DISH STIRLING SYSTEMS
Electrical power generated with the heat from the sun, called solar thermal power, is produced with three types of concentrating solar systems - trough or linefocus systems; power towers in which a centrally-located thermal receiver is illuminated with a large field of sun-tracking heliostats; and dish/engine systems. A special case of the third type of system, a dish/Stirling system, is the subject of this paper. A dish/Stirling system comprises a parabolic dish concentrator, a thermal receiver, and a Stirling engine/generator located at the focus of the dish. Several different dish/Stirling systems have been built and operated during the past 15 years. One system claims the world record for net conversion of solar energy to electric power of 29.4%; and two different company's systems have accumulated thousands of hours of on-sun operation. Due to de-regulation and intense competition in global energy markets as well as the immaturity of the technology, dish/Stirling systems have not yet found their way into the marketplace. This situation is changing as solar technologies become more mature and manufacturers identify high-value niche markets for their products. In this paper, I review the history of dish/Stirling system development with an emphasis on technical and other issues that directly impact the Stirling engine.