Apr 26, 2024 - News

Solar steam starts up in the San Diego region

Sunvapor's Brawley project

A solar-powered boiler and steam storage unit developed by Sunvapor and installed in Brawley. Photo: Courtesy of Oberon Fuels

An unusual project that uses solar-powered steam and storage to decarbonize clean fuel production is up and running in Imperial County.

Why it matters: The project could help industrial solar steam go mainstream, because for the first time, the tech has been part of a power-purchase agreement, the companies behind the project say.

  • A power-purchase agreement is when a developer pays to install, operate and own an energy system on property owned by a customer who agrees to buy the energy for a predetermined time.

Driving the news: Solar steam company Sunvapor built the project at Oberon Fuels' renewable fuel-production facility in Brawley.

  • The solar steam replaces natural gas-powered steam Oberon had relied on to create clean fuel, lowering its carbon footprint.
  • The federal Department of Energy funded it as a demonstration project that also uses compressed steam to generate heat at night.

The big picture: Solar-powered industrial heat is emerging, in part, as a result of industrial decarbonization incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Bottom line: Solar industrial steam is still fledgling technology, but the Brawley project's adoption of attractive financing is a major step that could help it grow as potential customers see a way to avoid initial costs.

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