“I believe that energy should be produced in every house and/or village. I do not believe that large energy companies should be producing power for large cities. Their will always be power outages, people that are not part of the grid and people will be paying to buy power instead of producing it themselves. Currently the technology to power your own home with solar or wind is still very expensive. Only when we move away from grid power will the individual power sources for each home become less expensive.

I believe we should not wait for this time, when large companies can sell us this equipment at better prices. I think we should already start working on homemade home power. I see a lot of potential in homemade solar thermal systems to provide all the electrical power as well as very efficient heat for your house. With this system heat can be stored very cheaply instead of having a large expensive battery bank in your basement. I envision a future where online communities share ideas and designs on homemade home power that each person can build themselves for much less than commercially produced solar panels or wind power. The grid can then be used by people to share and trade power. Instead of storing all your power in batteries you could send it to the grid and then use some grid power when you are low on power.
For the past 1.5 years I have been working exclusively with homemade solar thermal power. Using low cost material like aluminium foil, plywood and some used car parts I have built a very low cost power producing prototype. I see such a potential for this technology that I am now working on building the world’s first solar thermal powered car. I will use this car to test and improve this technology and spread awareness for homemade solar thermal power as I travel with the car. It will be difficult to ignore the solar thermal car with its 24 foot long and 6 foot wide trough mirror. Hopefully I will spark interest for this technology as I travel around the world with this car. The car’s mirror will also flip upside down to form a roof so my wife and I have a place to stay while travelling. This solar camper will use hot oil heated by the sun to power the oven and stove top. A small heat storage tank will be used for heating and cooking at night.
The solar thermal car is basically a very low cost trough solar thermal power plant on wheels. The solar thermal car will have a large trough mirror (24 by 6 feet) that will focus sunlight onto a black pipe. A motor and sensors will rotate the mirror to automatically track the sun in one axis. The black pipe will be insulated by a glass tube with a gap of air or vacuum. Oil inside the pipe will be heated by the concentrated sunlight. A pump will pump the hot oil through a heat exchanger that will boil water and create steam. This high pressure steam will run a steam engine that will drive a generator to create electricity. This electricity will be stored in batteries to power the car. The steam at the exit of the engine will be condensed and reused.
If I can build a homemade solar thermal car I believe people will gain the confidence to build their own stationary units for their houses. Unlike PV this technology is very difficult to install on your roof because of the large curved mirror in high winds. So this technology is more suited for people that have a backyard with a lot of sun.

My main goal with this technology is to bring it to small sunny communities that have problems with drinkable water, food and cooking. A very simple unit built from locally available material, shinny chip bags, cardboard, wood.. can be built to pasteurize water to prevent illness from bacteria. A more advanced system can be used for cooking or to desalinated ocean water into drinking water. If a steam engine is added the unit can be used to pump water from a well and flood dry fields so crops can be grown in the dry season or desert. A steam engine also allows electricity to be produced.
I believe that homemade solar thermal power is the only energy technology that can help people in these village with all their water and food needs from the very basic to advanced electrical needs.
When the solar thermal car is complete in December of this year we will be travelling to Argentina. On the way there we will be stopping in several village for a few months to learn more about what the people need. We are hoping to be able to drill a well using the power of the solar thermal car. We would then like to build a solar thermal power unit for the village using tools we will have with us as well as local material and labour. We are hoping when we leave the quality of life in the village will be improved. As more and more villages build their own solar thermal power we are hoping that they will start showing the neighbouring villages how to build their own units.
In the past year I have been mostly focus on design and small scale testing. I have now built a larger test unit that is 4 feet wide and about 2 feet long. This test unit will be used to test the steam turbine and will give me a good idea of the efficiently and power output of the solar thermal car. I will redesign if necessary and then begin building the full scale mirror.
I used recycled car parts to build a electric hot oil pump it was tested at 150c and 15L/min which is more then enough for circulated the hot oil for the full scale solar thermal car.
The full scale (24 by 6 foot) test mirror will be installed beside our house here in Mexico. This unit will provide our house with all our electrical and heat needs. During the summer then it is over 38C hear in La Paz, Mexico the high air conditioning loads will simulate the power required to propel the car. I will be testing out each system used in the solar car for a few months. I will be testing battery and heat storage systems, I will be recording data constantly and will be adjusting the design as needed. Engineering students from local Universities will be visiting so that they can see the system working.
Them the stationary testing is complete I will be mounting the mirror system on the car. I will then begin road testing to ensure everything works on the car. We will then be ready to begin our travels and spread this technology.
We don’t want to patent anything or make any money. We just think that people have the power to make the world a better place and we want to do our part.
by Alexander Cordes
Alexander Cordes is 27 and currently lives in La Paz Mexico with his wife, Candice. He spends his days developing his solar thermal car prototype and contributing to the renewable energy engineering program at the local university, where he teaches workshops on building affordable solar units. Alex holds a degree in aerospace engineering from Ryerson in Toronto where he grew up, and worked in the field for 7 years testing landing gear and developed an electrical landing gear device. He decided to switch fields and use his talents to build affordable and accessible energy to help those in need.
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