If you read a lot about solar power, the term concentrating solar power (CSP) will come up on a regular basis. It refers to a technique used by a new generation of power plants that rely on the sun as a heat source.
Boiling water is a technique used in many traditional power plants that require fossil fuels to generate electricity. Concentrating solar power, however, uses heat from the sun to operate 3 different systems. They are parabolic-trough, dish/engine, and power tower. All of them rely on focused sunlight achieved through the use of mirrors and other clever configurations. The heat is then channeled through a generator. Let’s get the specifics on this expanding branch of renewable energy technology.
A parabolic-trough system is the least expensive solar electric option for power plant applications and is expected to make CSP competitive with conventional power plants within the next 10 years. This system consists of a system of long, U-shaped mirrors with a pipe running along the center of each. As the mirrors direct sunlight onto the pipes, the oil flowing within them is heated and used to boil water for electricity generation.
The dish/engine system resembles an oversized, mirrored satellite. Sunlight is concentrated on a dish/engine receiver, which transfers it to engine fluid. The fluid is used to mechanically power a turbine, which runs a generator that ultimately produces electricity.
As you can see, mirrors are a recurring theme in concentrating solar power. In a power tower system, a series of them are used at the top of tower, where they direct the sun to heat molten salt. Molten salt effectively retains heat, a plus for cloudy days. The heated salt flows through a receiver, powering a steam generator for electricity production.
Does all this power plant talk make you nostalgic for solar power info on a smaller scale? Read up on residential solar power and contact one of our certified installers for a free estimate for your homegrown, power producing plans.
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