Image of a Power Tower System
Concentrating solar power (CSP) is used to generate solar electricity. However, as a homeowner, this isn’t asolar electricity solution that you would implement for your own home.
Concentrated solar power is actually a utility-scale solar solution that can provide hundreds of megawatts of electricity to the grid. But CSP is still an important solar technology for homeowners to be aware of because it has the potential to provide significant amounts of clean, renewable energythat could be provided to you by your utility.
Of all the current solar technologies, concentrated solar power has the most promise of providing a large-scale, sustainable alternative to fossil-fuel power plants.
What is Concentrating Solar Power?
The first thing to understand about concentrated solar power is that the primary form of energy it generates is solar thermal energy, also known as heat. This is very important because heat is able to be efficiently stored at significantly less cost than electricity.
For solar technologies, energy storage is critical since the Sun isn’t always available for energy production. Most often, oil or molten salt is used to store the heat generated by the concentrated solar energy. This is very cost effective compared to using batteries for storing solar electricity.
The second thing to understand about concentrated solar power is that the heat it generates is used to drive a turbine or engine. The turbine or engine then powers a generator which produces electricity. This electricity is then delivered to the grid.
So, in summary, the basic idea is to…
- Concentrate sunlight in order to generate heat…
- Which is used to drive a turbine or motor…
- Which powers a generator that provides electricity.
And of course, efficient energy storage is critical to allow for electricity generation after the Sun sets or on cloudy days.
Now that you’ve seen the basic idea behind concentrating solar power, let’s take a look at the different types of CSP systems in use today.
Types of Concentrated Solar Power Systems
The three main types of CSP systems are…
- Power Tower Systems
- Dish/Engine Systems
- Parabolic Trough Systems
CLICK HERE to read how each of these three CSP systems operate.