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Cone Drive Advances Innovation Within the Solar Industry
Aug 30, 2019

It’s only fitting that the solar-energy industry is beginning to heat up. According to the Bloomberg NEF New Energy Outlook 2019, solar energy is expected to grow from two percent of the world’s electricity generation today to 22 percent by 2050. Across the board, we expect Timken’s various brands to play a major role in moving that growth forward.

In recent years, we’ve been increasing our capabilities and expertise in solar energy applications, with an emphasis on concentrated solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV) motion control technologies. Leading the way is our Cone Drive® brand, which has built a strong reputation over the years for innovations in the solar industry and joined Timken last year.

Cone Drive began exploring new markets for its unique double-enveloping worm gear technology in 2009, and solar quickly became a priority. PV solar energy is what most of us are familiar with–the rectangular panels you often see on rooftops, stoplights and everyday objects–creating energy at the source to power homes, offices, traffic lights and more. However, we believe significant opportunity lies in CSP technology.

CSP towers capture the sun’s energy, which then super-heats a combination of steam and molten salt to temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, in turn powering electricity generating turbines. Accuracy and precision are paramount to ensuring the sun’s light stays focused on the receiver atop the tower. Using precision motion control, Cone Drive’s products position thousands of mirrors in a synchronized way to precisely reflect the sun’s light onto a target that measures only two to three square meters, and some at a distance of up to 2,000 feet away, all while dealing with severe environmental conditions.  

Cone Drive emerged quickly in the CSP market by offering a key differentiator: the aforementioned double-enveloping worm gear technology. Now, we’re taking on projects like BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah solar thermal power system in California’s Mohave Desert, which uses 300,000 software-controlled mirrors to track the sun and reflect it to boilers atop three 457-foot tall towers. Experts estimate the plant will avoid 13 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over its 30-year lifespan. The world’s largest CSP plant, which is currently under construction in Dubai, will also employ our Cone Drive technology, as do more than 150,000 mirrors at the Ashalim power station in Israel.

Our vision for solar technology continues to be leveraging our global engineering and manufacturing capabilities to deliver motion control solutions with unparalleled quality, reliability and performance that are both cost-effective and scalable.  

With more than a decade of experience in solar power under our belt, we are poised to drive the growth of the industry. Major projects like those in the California, Dubai and Israeli deserts indicate that the market is ripe for solar-energy innovations. With CSP technology gaining momentum, our stake in solar power will help meet the world’s growing demand for renewable energy.

Kurt Gamelin is president of Cone Drive, a Timken Company.