Energy company builds high-temperature concentrated solar systems for round-the-clock power: 'Trying to solve the problem of intermittency'

An energy company that offers round-the-clock power is bringing day to night with technology that originated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In late April, MIT News detailed how 247Solar's high-temperature concentrated solar power systems could support a transition to a clean-energy grid by ensuring that power is readily available when people need it.

The technology, inspired by a high-temperature ceramic heat exchanger designed by company co-founder and MIT Professor Emeritus David Gordon Wilson, was in the works as early as 2010 after Wilson and his team received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

However, the project didn't begin to truly take flight until five years later, when co-founder Bruce Anderson raised more funds and incorporated a new type of metal alloy into the design.

The system uses mirrors called heliostats to bounce the sun to a proprietary receiver. That receiver then heats the air to roughly 1,000 degrees Celsius (around 1,800 Fahrenheit), producing 400 kilowatts of electricity and 600 kilowatts of heat. Some air is also fed through turbines into thermal-energy storage systems.

According to the company's website, its Solar Plants and HeatStoreE all-night battery can save energy at a low cost for up to 20 hours. This is important because it enables the grid to provide non-polluting solar energy when the sun isn't shining.

Watch now: Mutual of Omaha brand leader shares details on resurrection of iconic TV show

"One of my motivations for working on this system was trying to solve the problem of intermittency," Anderson told MIT News. "... There's always bad weather, and current batteries aren't economical over long periods. You have to have a solution that operates 24 hours a day."

When the storage capacity is spent, the system can operate on alternative fuels like green hydrogen. This ensures that our electrical grid is resilient but not releasing carbon pollution that causes unhealthy air quality and contributes to the dangerous rise of global temperatures.

Storing clean energy isn't just good for the planet. It's good for our wallets, as solar panels can save consumers more than $1,000 on their electric bills every year.

According to 247Solar, its plants reduce yearly fuel costs by at least 80% compared to diesel generators. MIT reported that the company is "increasingly proposing combining its systems with traditional solar PV," which means even more savings could be around the corner.

Anderson told the outlet that the "very flexible system" can also be used for industrial processes. The company has a project underway with a utility company in India, but it has also had extensive talks with communities in the United States and Egypt.

Anderson projects that the next partnership will involve an off-grid community in the U.S. that depends upon diesel generators.

While the concentrated solar technology isn't a good fit in areas with hazy skies, like Florida, he believes the technology will be able to assist emerging economies in the transition away from polluting fuels, including in parts of Africa.

"Our owning and operating costs are less than half that of diesel gen-sets," he said. "Customers today really want to stop producing emissions if they can, so you've got villages, mines, industries, and entire countries where the people inside are saying, 'We can't burn diesel anymore."

Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.