Concentrated Solar Power
Concentrated solar power (also called concentrating solar power, concentrated solar thermal, and CSP) systems use mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight, or solar thermal energy, onto a small area. Electrical power is produced when the concentrated light is converted to heat, which drives a heat engine (usually a steam turbine) connected to an electrical power generator.
CSP is being widely commercialized and the CSP market has seen about 740 MW of generating capacity added between 2007 and the end of 2010. More than half of this (about 478 MW) was installed during 2010, bringing the global total to 1095 MW. Spain added 400 MW in 2010, taking the global lead with a total of 632 MW, while the US ended the year with 509 MW after adding 78 MW, including two fossil–CSP hybrid plants.
CSP growth is expected to continue at a fast pace. As of April 2011, another 946 MW of capacity was under construction in Spain with total new capacity of 1,789 MW expected to be in operation by the end of 2013. A further 1.5 GW of parabolic-trough and power-tower plants were under construction in the US, and contracts signed for at least another 6.2 GW. Interest is also notable in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as India and China. The global market has been dominated by parabolic-trough plants, which account for 90 percent of CSP plants.
CSP is not to be confused with concentrated photovoltaics (CPV). In CSP, the concentrated sunlight is converted to heat, and then the heat is converted to electricity. In CPV, the concentrated sunlight is converted directly to electricity via the photovoltaic effect.
"Concentrating solar thermal collectors (commonly but ambiguously referred to as CSP) turn sunshine into heat that then can be used to produce electricity in a turbine generator. Picture a coal power plant where the coalmine and coalladen rail cars are replaced with a field of gleaming solar collectors. Using solar heat to generate electricity has been proven through 30 years of operation of the Solar Energy Generating Stations, or SEGS, in California’s Mojave Desert. Building on this legacy, the 64-megawatt-electrical(MWe) Nevada Solar One project came online in 2005, the 75-MWe Martin project came online in 2009, and four more utility-scale solar power plants are under construction in California and Arizona.
The most commercially advanced concentrating solar thermal technologies (we’ll use this term, abbreviated as CST) are power tower, parabolic trough and linear Fresnel. Power towers use an array of sun tracking heliostats (reflectors) to focus sunlight onto a single-point receiver to heat a fluid atop a tower as tall as 540 feet (165 m). Most of the power tower systems in operation make electricity on a utility scale via a steam Rankine cycle turbine generator. Parabolic trough and linear Fresnel solar concentrators reflect sunlight onto a linear receiver tube, filled with a working fluid, which is situated above or attached to curved, sun-tracking reflectors. There are operating power tower and parabolic trough plants using molten salts for heat collection and thermal storage up to 565°C (1,049°F). Parabolic troughs and linear Fresnel systems are readily scalable, and have the greatest potential to be incorporated into industrial heating applications.
The surging market in solar electric power generation has pushed down the cost of CSP collectors over the past 10 years, from around $300 per square meter3 to below $200 per square meter. The scale-up in the solar electric power market has had other benefits, as well: growth of the supply chain, standardization of components, increased quality and reliability and increased performance of the collectors." Source....
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