Infinia Corp. to get $3M DOE grant

Infinia Corp. will get up to $3 million from the Department of Energy to develop technology to store solar energy for later use.

The Kennewick-based company, which manufactures solar power generators, is among 13 recipients of DOE grants totaling about $62 million that were awarded for projects aimed at speeding the commercialization and deployment of cutting-edge solar technologies.

Infinia's multi-year project will try to develop a large-scale thermal energy storage system that potentially could be integrated with the company's solar power generator, said Jason Modrell, Infinia's director for development programs and government relations.

The device will be a high-efficiency battery that is recharged with solar energy and capable of storing energy for up to 18 hours, Modrell said. Infinia's device will store heat instead of electricity, he said.

Infinia's project will build on work already done as part of a similar DOE project -- for which Infinia got $9.4 million in 2008, Modrell said.

That project was to demonstrate the feasibility of storing thermal energy for up to four hours. The company's initial demonstration of a device offering one hour of storage with Infinia's 3-kilowatt solar generator is planned for early next year, he said.

Infinia's research has helped the company explore ways of expanding storage capacity with greater efficiency, said J.D. Sitton, Infinia's president and chief executive officer.

The aim is to keep costs to about 8 cents to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, Sitton said. "We are pretty confident we'll be able to meet that goal."

The new grant will help Infinia "add to its PowerDish product family," Sitton said. The PowerDish generators use concentrated sunlight with Infinia's free-piston Stirling engine to generate electricity.

About 30 of Infinia's 3-kilowatt solar generators are being used in Spain, and 30 to 35 are to be shipped to Arizona later this month, he said.

Infinia will use its 3-kilowatt solar generator for the demonstration project, Modrell said. But the company also will do a preliminary assessment for using the storage device with a 30-kilowatt generator now under development, he said.