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    eSolar powers up design by using Altium Designer to create digital controllers that manage solar power stations.

    The need

    Solar generated energy has long been an under-used natural resource. However, with worldwide pressures to develop greener power alternatives, there has been a recent surge in solar technologies. Headlining this push is eSolar, a US company which provides utility-scale solar power generation facilities. eSolar applies mass production techniques to create a unique power plant architecture that is flexible, powerful, and affordable.

    Considering the unique design of eSolar’s stations, there was a need to focus on developing an intuitive system that could address, communicate with, and control each individual mirror among the thousands of mirrors installed in a typical power plant. As a result, eSolar needed to develop a multifaceted, compact digital controller that could drive motors and manage power and communications with several mirrors, all over a proprietary communication channel.

    The challenge

    The development of the digital controllers posed various challenges. After evaluating several competing systems, eSolar found that although many systems offered integrated solutions, each lacked one capability or another. They were not unified systems. Finding an all-inclusive toolset that could ease the steep learning curve of a new product proved to be difficult.

    In addition, the digital controllers needed to be highly sophisticated. The unique system of interconnected modules added complexities to their design requirements. Networking the several functions of the controllers with the numerous heliostats needed a strict control environment that could accurately work with the mirrors for premium performance.

    The solution

    Choosing Altium Designer as its EDA solution, eSolar found it could avoid the time-consuming, expensive training cycles that frequently cause development downtime. Engineers could start the project without delay because of Altium’s logical user interface and easy-to-use tools and wizards.

    The unique unified environment of Altium Designer, which combines software, hardware and programmable hardware design in one system, offers greater development flexibility. Being able to combine the various design disciplines, eSolar found that there were no restrictions on the way it could move, delete or change the controller during any part of the development stage. This process also provides an added advantage: eSolar noticed the unified system offered a clearly defined documentation process, one that could manage all its project requirements within a single component database.

    The results

    Altium Designer shaved weeks off the costly training cycles associated with a new product. By introducing intelligence into its control systems, eSolar was also able to drastically reduce installation costs and increase the efficiency of its solar power generating stations. The result? A sophisticated and commercially viable energy alternative that is competitive with the dominant fossil fuel industries.

    Product information

    eSolar delivers turnkey solar power generation facilities to utilities and renewable resource owner-operators. Generation assets are constructed using individual modules to create a scalable architecture that leverages the cost advantages of mass manufactured components. This system allows for phased facility development, financing, and construction to be customized for projects from 5 MW to over 500 MW. To scale to larger capacities, multiple modules are deployed at same site. These modules may be constructed in series to conserve cost, or in parallel to deliver maximum generating capacity quickly. Once deployed, modules form a redundant system, ensuring low maintenance costs and high system reliability.

    Customer information

    eSolar builds large scale solar thermal power projects around the world and is committed to producing affordable products for the benefit of the environment as well as investors. For customers interested in any of eSolar’s technology, project development or project investment opportunities, please follow the web link below. eSolar is based in Pasadena, CA.

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