Trinum: pocket-sized solar energy

A concentrated thermodynamic cogeneration system that can simultaneously generate electricity and thermal energy.

This new example of Enel Green Power’s open innovation is based on an idea dating back to 1816.

It’s a flower made up of mirrors that can track sunlight and close down when there’s continuous wind, rain or hail. But it’s also a 21st. century innovation that is based on the intuition of a Scottish protestant minister who was born in 1790.

Trinum is a thermodynamic cogeneration system using concentration technology that can simultaneously generate 1 kW of 230 V AC 50 Hz electricity and 3 kW of thermal energy.

And it’s the nth example of the open innovation of Enel Green Power, which has recently installed one of these digital sunflowers at the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) in Corno del Renon, in the Italian province of Bolzano. This is the last step of the in-the-field testing process that brought the cogeneration system to the Alps from Enel’s laboratories in Catania, and is now about to export it beyond the Italian borders, to Chile and Brazil.

The aim of these operating tests performed on the network, under even extreme weather and environmental conditions, is to verify its performance in view of its widespread use, from isolated and electricity-lacking areas to EGP’s construction sites across the world.

The technical characteristics of Trinum, which has been conceived by the Italian company Innova, enable it to produce effective results as regards both generation capacity and sustainability. It is made of 100 percent recyclable material, it doesn’t need an inverter and – above all – it’s the only intrinsically cogeneration machine in the world of its type, and all this comes from the idea that a Scottish protestant minister had in 1816!

Trinum is a pocket-sized thermodynamic system. And this definition makes all the difference, considering that solar technology is associated to vast areas with hundreds of panels, while the surface of this digital sunflower only takes up the space of a 10 m² mirrored parabolic disk.

Trinium’s ‘miniature magic’ is a cutting-edge and extremely compact version of the engine that Robert Sterling invented in the 19th. century, which uses heated and cooled air to get the pistons going. Instead of air, Trinum uses helium, while heat is generated no longer by coal, but by the sunlight that is captured by the parabolic mirrors.

As a result, this system uses up half the surface required by traditional PV and thermal panels to generate the same amount of electricity and thermal energy, and it generates up to 40 percent more electricity than normal panels with the same nominal installed capacity.