Solar Thermal Alternative Energy at University of Louisiana


Crowley, Louisiana – Gulf Coast Green Energy (GCGE) commissioned an ElectraTherm Power+ GeneratorTM waste heat to power generator for the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Cleco Power LLC (Cleco) purchased the Power+ GeneratorTM and associated equipment and donated it to the university to demonstrate the  versatility of the Power+. The Power+ GeneratorTM is located at the Cleco Alternative Energy Center on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Energy Research Complex, near Lafayette. The site utilizes thermal energy collected from two parabolic Solar Collector Assemblies (SCAs) to heat water, which is fed directly into the Power+ GeneratorTM. Gossamer Space Frames supplied the solar thermal array which uses 3M Solar Mirror Film which was also purchased by Cleco and donated to the university.

Green Machine waste heat to power generator is installed at the University of Louisiana

The Power+ generates power at the Cleco Alternative Energy Center by harnessing hot water in solar collection panels.  Water heated in the solar array is pumped to the Power+ GeneratorTM to heat a working fluid that, under pressure, rotates the Power+’s twin screw expander to generate electricity.  The working fluid is then condensed by a water cooling tower to begin the process again in the closed loop cycle.  The Power+ GeneratorTM generates 15-50 kWe depending on local weather conditions.  For larger applications, the Power+ generates up to 110 kWe.

“Our experience with the Power+ GeneratorTM has been successful, generating power output from the solar collectors on site over a wide range of operating conditions,” said Jonathan Raush, Senior Research Scientist for the project at University of Louisiana. “We look forward to learning more about Organic Rankine Cycle technology in tandem with solar thermal energy through our ongoing work with ElectraTherm’s Power+.”

The demonstration was partially funded by a grant from Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’ Empower Louisiana Renewable Energy Grant Program in order to study and develop alternative energy technologies using renewable energy sources. Cleco provides support for ongoing operation of the facility, and UL Lafayette operates the solar thermal field, including running the Power+ GeneratorTM.

Currently, the demonstration project is operational with a primary focus on the solar arrays, while the Power+ runs on an as needed basis. However, the Cleco Alternative Energy Center looks to operate the Power+ GeneratorTM more consistently while investigating methods to increase efficiency and optimize the project. “We look forward to the opportunity to generate even more power from the new 110 kWe Power+”, Raush said.