Talk:Directory:Charles Shults' Fresnel Solar Design

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Discussion page for Directory:Charles Shults' Fresnel Solar Design

Image:SirCharlesShults fresnel lens 95x95.jpg

Technology combines solar hot water panels with one large fresnel lens to flash the hot water to steam for running a turbine to generate 6 kW of electricity, all for around $6,000, with an ROI of 3-5 years.


post here

(Just click on the "There was an error working with the wiki: Code[1].)

Some thoughts on improvement

On January 29, 2008, Angel Kafazov wrote:

Looking at this, I can't resist to wonder if the design could be improved using the Directory:Green Steam Engine. It could be attached to the generator and is very efficient, probably better than a turbine.

60% Efficiency?

On Jan. 28, 2008, 3:35 pm Mountain, New Energy Congress member, Congress:Member:Francis Giroux wrote:

How can this setup be 60% efficient at producing electricity out of sunlight via steam when the most efficient steam turbine powered generator is only 30% efficient?

Regulations on Steam Credibility

On Jan. 28, 2008, 3:43 pm Mountain, New Energy Congress member, Congress:Member:Richard George wrote:

(See Charles Shults There was an error working with the wiki: Code[1] below)

I rate this as Not Congress:Top 100 Technologies -- RD at this time. This is neither original nor a commercial product.

The basic concept is doable and could deliver significantly lower costs. Fresnel lens do have the ability to generate significant heat. This is easy and roughly 80% to 90% efficient in converting solar energy to steam. However, his claim of 60% efficiency is complete BS. The best steam engines are ~25% to 30% efficient in converting steam to mechanical energy. The real efficiency would be more along the lines of 80% x 30% ~ 24% with potentially additional losses in the steam pipe system and the generation/inverter systems. However, some efficiency could be recovered by using the excess heat energy to heat water for hot water or for home heating.

However, 'steam-powered electrical generation systems are highly regulated because they can be extremely dangerous and deadly' if improperly designed, allowed to corrode, and/or improperly maintained. The challenge is in a) designing a flash boiler and steam engine that is safe, b) that can operate unattended, be idiot proof, c) meets ASME steam boiler, engine, and safety standards, d) obtain state level boiler operating permits and approval, and e) has the necessary engineering design signoffs for installation.

This system does not [appear to] address these five critical requirements. Furthermore, these five requirements implicity require a properly funded commercial entity with sufficient insurance. Given most state regulation of steam, this concept would not be practical for most homes due to safety concerns. Just consider the liability and bad press that would result from one accidental venting of steam that burns some kid. For a residential application, it would have to be foolproof and extensively tested to ensure it is safe even following failures. In addition, it would have to be installed in a location outside of the house (outdoors or in a shed) where it is secure and could not harm children. If a company can meet all five of these criteria, this approach would be a top ten technology.

Finally, the inventor comes across as very flaky and suspect in his use of "Sir Charles". Only the King or Queen of England can knight individuals, and the title is completely cerimonial for non-UK citizens as only UK citizens knighted by the state can use "Sir". English Barons cannot knight someone. This is similar to individuals in a PhD program calling themselves Dr. when they are ABD (all but dissertation, often dropouts who may not have even passed their comprehensives exam) and have not completed their dissertation and passed their oral defense (both required to use Dr. and to get the degree). See

The net result is that if a person lies about their resume or uses titles or ranks that they did not earn to make them sound more distinguished, one cannot trust other claims they may make about a technology or venture.


On Jan. 28, 2008, 7:11 pm Mountain, New Energy Congress member, Nick Testad wrote:

Dr. George

Respectfully, I think we're perhaps being a little too tough here. A.) The guy claims to have a working prototype or at least something he's made from an old television screen that seems to work. B.) His max electrical efficiency is going to be about 30%, but as all turbines go, cogenration systems are the way to boost this number (he's just not marketing that fact well). C.) He's got "bang for the buck" on his side (and that's big in my book) D.) I think it shouldn't be too difficult to get these computerized to a fail safe mode and installed on rooftops or in non-childeren activity areas. E.) Readily available/manufactured components (no silicon shortages). I think we're looking at a contender, I gave it a top 50.

Safety and Regulatory Issues are Significant

On Jan. 28, 2008, 7:37 pm Mountain, New Energy Congress member, Congress:Member:Richard George wrote:

I have been aware of his site for almost two years, have done similar experiments with fresnel lenses, and have done a lot of research investigating what would be required to make such a system work. They have a real tech geek coolness factor, start fires in ~30 seconds or less, and can melt metals.

The safety and regulatory issues here are very significant and non-trivial. I have seen no evidence that he has done anything to comply with all regulatory requirements for operating steam boilers and engine, or meet ASME standards. Meet those two, and this moves up a notch to barely be a top 100 tech. Run this device without them, you are going to have significant legal exposure for violating various laws regulating the operation of steam boilers and the state regulators can and will shut down your business.

Aside from the fresnel lens that are commercially available for ~$40 each, the boiler assembly and the steam engine are not off the shelf, readily available components. Since there is not an ASME specification for solar boilers, one would have to go through extra regulatory scrutiny and have a registered professional engineer sign off on the design and get the state boiler regulator in each state that you wish to do business to sign off on it as well. The steam world is very conservative for a very good reason - steam boilers and engines can be lethal. They also have thermal shock, corrossion, and maintenance issues that can lead to failures over time (hence the regulatory requirements for annual hydraulic water pressure tests and the requirement of keeping a trained boiler operator on site at all time when operating).

The bang for the buck variable here is positive if you do it as a DIY project. However, once you add lawyers, insurance, trained boiler operators, and regulators into the mix, the costs inflate substantially -- much like the ladders at Home Depot that cost $50 to make and $250 for the insurance. Many steam regulators will not allow these devices to run unattended without a trained steam boiler operator present when running. Add the labor component, and the good economics evaporate for home scale systems (for utility or MW scale systems the labor cost per watt is minimal). This is why stirling engines make more commercial sense for this application than a steam engine, despite their having substantially more technical challenges to manufacture.

Most importantly, I don't see the team, funding, and organization needed to implement a viable business. This model is mostly about execution. I don't see "Sir" Charles as being someone who could successfully execute all of the steps required to be successful.

It Will be Interesting to See How the DIY Community Can Improve on This

On January 28, 2008 9:12 PM Mountain, There was an error working with the wiki: Code[2] wrote:

Not Congress:Top 100 Technologies -- RD

I'm actually on board with Dr. George on this one. This is a good proof-of-concept, but you are not going to get solar boilers on this country. Is this a product for this country? Maybe...maybe not. I can tell you, having lived in West Africa, I could have 30 of these things running a village and pumping water right now. Don't forget a what system like this can do as flash steam distillation to improve the quality of water in a remote location. Can you use it to turn a turbine? Maybe. Would I?...probably not.

Don't be to hard on this type of device, they worked great in the 1900-30's when they pumped water in Pasadena, California through the Orange groves. 'This is a better and cheaper use of direct solar power than silicon and it needs to be promoted and improved'. It may be using water now but it could eventually lead to Stirling or an Ericson's Cycle that gets in excess of 51% efficiency (according to the RAND Group.) I wouldn't get too caught up on efficiencies on these low tech systems. I don't care if I have to use a hydraulic pump ramming a pneumatic piston pushing a spring against a rubber band snapping at a mouse as long as it works, its cheap and sustainable.

You are looking for inexpensive systems that perform a work function. Now drop this onto a team of brilliant DIY garage engineers and see where it goes. I bet it gets pretty interesting.

Rebuttal from Charles Shults

On January 28, 2008 11:07 PM Mountain, inventor Charles Shults responds to the above remarks:

Hello Sterling.

I noticed that Dr.George has stated "The best steam engines are ~25% to 30% efficient in converting steam to mechanical energy.". I am not certain why he would say this, as steam turbines even years ago demonstrated efficiencies of 75% or more, and some units today rank at 90% or better. Power plants in operation today also show a fuel-to electrical power efficiency of 75% to 85%.

When you consider that we do not use fuel per se, only raw heat, our efficiencies of 60% are very reasonable. Electrical generators typically have an efficiency of 93% to 97%. In the worst case here, using a steam turbine with 75% efficiency and a generator of 93% efficieny, you would get a yield of 69.75% from front to back. Best case would be slightly better than 90%.

The scale of our system dictates a certain loss of heat due to the square-cube law. Larger systems have a smaller surface to volume ratio and tend to retain heat more effectively. This helps to raise their efficiencies significantly.

Later he does state: "However, some efficiency could be recovered by using the excess heat energy to heat water for hot water or for home heating." Clearly he did not hear this in the program that one aspect of our system is that 'we recover the waste heat for hot water and radiant heating'. I would not hazard a guess at our end efficiency taking the heated water into account until we have completed our testing and characterization.

Finally, he writes: "This system does not [appear to] address these five critical requirements." Since he has not seen the system only heard a rough description of it, it is not possible for him to make a reasonable assessment. Nothing was mentioned of the installation, location, safety features, or any other of his concerns. Therefore, his pronouncement seems a bit hasty due to lack of facts to deal with.

So I feel that his assessment is probably missing something, or perhaps he is not truly aware of the parameters of steam turbines and electrical generators (although that seems unlikely to me considering his credentials). 'His concerns about safety are in fact addressed in our system'. My focus [in the Directory:Charles Shults' Fresnel Solar Design] was on the availability of this technology for people, rather than debating the safety points. People want to know what is coming down the pipe and when it comes to evaluating the systems, they will have questions about safety and operation which we will answer for them.

One thing that is odd is his statement: "Only the King or Queen of England can knight individuals". This is false. It is based on a belief that knights only exist at the whim of England. How does this belief persist? 'Many countries have knights' this exclusivity is based on the belief that the Scots (who have their own set of royalty that is in fact now recognized by Burke's) cannot possibly have knights of their own. A knight is not defined as being a product of England, nor do knights of other cultures depend on the blessing of the crown for their existence.

One hour [Jan. 28, 2008 Directory:Charles Shults' Fresnel Solar Design duration] does not really allow a great enough span of time for the revelation of these points. And, for what it is worth, this sort of treatment is common from people of letters who encounter somebody who has not attended a university and develops something significant. This is a shame because great and useful collaborations can result from the differences in experience and viewpoint that each of us has.

Thank you for graciously allowing me to appear on your show. I will happily provide more material substantiation for our system in the near future as well as more detailed technical specifications.


Regulations on Steam Credibility

On Jan. 28, 2008, 3:43 pm Mountain, New Energy Congress member, Congress:Member:Richard George wrote:

For the purposes of his application (a 5-10 KW solar concentrator), 25%-30% efficiency is about the maximum one can get. Smaller steam engines and turbines have inherent limits relative to their megawatt scale big brothers. The largest GE Power turbines achieve efficiencies in the 30% to 42% range. They can reach 50% to 60% if used in a combined cycle process where the waste heat is used. If you add cogeneration using the waste heat in a secondary turbine, you can get to 85% to 90% total system efficiency. However, this requires superheated steam in constant high pressures which would be extremely difficult to maintain in a fresnel lens ./ flash boiler system operating solely on solar power. Since solar output varies from hour to hour, you will have a much lower-grade, variable pressure steam relative to the steam used in megawatt scale nuclear or fossil fueled plants. This significantly reduces the efficiency of the system.

All of the above estimates are based on direct generation of clean AC power (something that may not be possible given the variable steam temperature and pressure). DC to AC power inverters have efficiencies between 80% and 96%, depending on the inverter chosen.

As for being knighted, those are the rules for the United Kingdom and Scotland is part of the UK. The United States does not use or recognize these titles. Mr Shults uses this (non-official) title to embellish his bio and sound more distinguished. The reality is that he never went to college and it is probable that his resume exagerates and embellishes his work experience. I don't have a problem with his lack of a college degree but I do have a problem with [un-official use of] titles and possible embellishing of resumes. Such behavior destroys trust and if I cannot trust you about titles and resume items, I cannot trust your claims about new energy devices or products.

Titles & Embellishment

On Jan. 29, 2008, 8:30 AM Mountain, New Energy Congress member, Congress:Founder:Sterling D. Allan replied to Richard:


In defense of Mr. Shults, I think you are taking a leap to assume that he has an embellished resume, which you have never inspected. Having worked 10 years at Martin Marietta Aerospace, etc., he is not likely to have embellished his resume, nor needed to. As for the title of "Sir", your usage of the terms "fake or purchased" is completely unfair. As you pointed out earlier, he was knighted in Scotland by Dr. Nelson Ying, the Baron of Balquhain. Your point on formalities about how and where the term "Sir" may or may not be used within the UK's stipulations for such, may be true but frankly, my respect for titles and rules is not that great. I don't care where the fork is placed at my dinner table, so long as I have a fork. I will not refuse to eat if it is placed on the right, rather than the left and I'm not much inclined to aspire to be able to eat at dinner tables where such distinctions are fussed over. I find this shallow and intentionally belittling to those who can't afford such luxury.

There are other Americans who proudly display their title of "Sir" such as Sir Richard Branson. It don't think it is offensive or inappropriate if someone who has been knighted wishes to use the "Sir" appellation. Actually, I think it's pretty cool, and shows an international sensibility and connection -- and international citizen, rather than confined to his country of origin for his identity.

Sir Richard Branson is a UK citizen

On Jan. 29, 2008, 8:55 am Mountain, New Energy Congress member, Congress:Member:Richard George responded:

Sir Richard Branson is a UK citizen born in Surrey England - he is not a US Citizen. His "Sir" is legitimate because he was knighted by the Queen as a Knight Bachelor in 1999.


On January 29, 2008 12:34 PM mountain, Charles Shults wrote:

If Dr. George has questions about my claims or my resume, I insist that he perform a full background check. It will prove to be quite illuminating. My Department of Defense DoD-48 form is on file, NATO records of an unclassified nature are available, and if needed, he can verify my personal tooling stamps on the hardware if he is capable of getting the needed security clearances.

As a token I am attaching [below] a link to a picture of myself inside a secured facility in front of a Pershing II nuclear missile equipped with a live warhead for testing purposes. I am located front and center with the curly hair, wearing the yellow secret clearance badge. The project head was Dr. Carrol Whitescarver, the older gentleman with the blue badge located over my left shoulder.

The telephone pole structure in the background is the nuclear EMP simulator facility.

12MW per square METER

On Jan. 29, 2008 8:30 AM Mountain, Brendan Burwood" wrote:

I have just been reading the page about Charles Shults' Fresnel Solar

Design and feel I need to mention a correction to some energy figures.

The page on PESWiki and the second video (57 seconds into the video) on

that page both quote "The fresnel lens concentrates 1.2 kW in one square

centimeter, producing an energy density of 12 MW per square cm". That

energy density figure is very clearly wrong and needs to be corrected.

1.2kW of energy concentrated onto 1 square centimetre is exactly 1.2kW

per square centimetre (that's only logical) - not 12MW per square cm.

The 12MW figure should be 12MW per square metre, not per square

centimetre. The simple calculation is just 1.2kW (per sq. cm) x 100cm x

100cm = 12,000kW per sq. metre = 12MW per sq metre. (1sq. metre being

10,000 sq cm)

This makes the actual energy density 4 orders of magnitude, or ten

thousand times, lower than the quoted energy density! (which, I'm sure

you agree is a rather significant difference) That's why I felt the

need to email in to correct it.

Thermodynamic Cycle Efficiencies

On Jan. 30, 2008, 12:09 am mountain, New Energy Congress member, Congress:Advisor:Kenneth M. Rauen wrote:

There is confusion between turbine efficiency and

overall cycle efficiency. For a given fluid stream's

available energy, turbines can be over 90% efficient

in capturing the available energy, but what is

available in a thermodynamic cycle is often WAY below


It is deceptive to some people to talk about 75%

efficiency when they are thinking about the overall

efficiencies reported by others, not knowing the