How Does Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Work?
Concentrating solar power works by focusing the sun’s energy and creating heat. This heat is then used to turn conventional generators much like the way steam generates electricity. There are three main types of CSPs: parabolic troughs, power towers, and dish engine systems.
Parabolic troughs: In this type of system, solar collectors reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver. Running along the side of the trough is a pipe which contains a liquid, usually some type of oil. This heated fluid then runs through a conventional steam generator to produce electricity.
A collector field is created when these CSPs are put into rows. These CSPs are then allowed to move freely to track the sun to maximize its efficiency. Currently parabolic troughs are hybrid systems which use fossil fuel during the times the sun is not present.
Power towers: A power tower uses mirrors called heliostats that track the sun and reflect the concentrated beams onto a reflector at the bottom of the pole. The sunlight then heats a transfer fluid like oil which in turn powers a turbine generator.
Some models use molten nitrate salt because it is a superior heat transfer medium than oil.
Dish engine systems: These systems burns sunlight instead of coal or gas in order to produce electricity. The solar concentrator and the power conversion unit are the two main components of this system.
The solar concentrator collects sunlight and concentrates it on a receiver. The surface of the concentrator is reflective glass mirror which reflects approximately 92% of sunlight.
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