In 2016, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) awarded Hyperlight Energy $1.5 million to advance their new, low-cost collector for solar-thermal industrial heat processing. Now, they are working with a cheese factory in a venture that might prove fruitful for future endeavors.

Hyperlight will launch a new solar-thermal processing plant at a Saputo Cheese production facility in California. Hyperlight’s outdoor waterbeds support plastic collectors with attached solar mirrors which capture and reflect the sunlight to the receiver tube to build steam. Due to the energy-intensive nature of processing milk into dairy products, solar-thermal energy can help reduce cheese factory emissions by offsetting the plant’s need for other sources of heat, like natural gas.

The project will demonstrate how solar can help to decarbonize low-to-mid temperature industrial thermal processes (typically below 400° Celsius), including food processing, enhanced oil recovery, and other chemical processes. Hyperlight’s approach has the potential to be a cost-efficient solution to provide carbon-free renewable heat for industrial process applications. There are many opportunities for solar technologies to meet industrial process heat (IPH) demand in the U.S. With a substantial demand for temperatures below 400°C, this range of process temperatures supports concentrating solar-thermal technologies according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) latest research on IPH.

Hyperlight also worked in collaboration with NREL to develop a novel secondary concentrator to improve the overall optical efficiency of their system, in addition to SETO’s support of the construction and testing of their pilot facility.

Learn more about SETO’s research into using solar energy in industrial processes.