Most people are familiar with solar photovoltaic (PV) cells or solar hot water systems. But there is a lesser-known solar powered system whose technology exists as a different way to take advantage of the energy that is coming from the sun: concentrated solar power (CSP). Concentrated solar power technology works differently than solar photovoltaic cells work. There are also different kinds of solar powered systems for concentrated solar power, the technology can also be compared to a photovoltaic cells solar powered system that you are able to install on your property.
Most people aren’t very familiar with what concentrated solar power is or how it works. The way that concentrated solar power works is like using a mirror or a magnifying glass to try and fry an egg on the pavement on a hot sunny day. The concentrated solar power technology produces solar energy by concentrating and harnessing the sun’s thermal energy using mirrors. At the time of the solar installs for the concentrated solar powered system, the mirror will reflect the sun to a focal point. The focal point of the mirrors will either be an absorber or a receiver that will collect and store the hear solar energy. The heat will eventually be used to create solar power for an engine or a turbine which is connected to an electricity generator.
When you see concentrated solar power solar installs you will see mass solar installs because it is used in utility-scale applications in order to help proved solar power to an electricity grid. Most of the words concentrated solar power, solar power plants are currently in Spain, but you are seeing Asia and South Africa using a few different sources of renewable energy and concentrated solar power is one. The largest concentrated solar power, solar power plant to date is in Morocco. Once the solar install complete, this solar power plant will have a capacity of 580 megawatts (MW) and will provide solar energy to more than one million people.
Usually, you won’t see any residential solar installs of concentrated solar power and you will almost always see mass solar installs of concentrated solar power. For both residential and commercial property owners, solar panels that are made up of photovoltaic cells provide the best efficiency of solar energy to harness the sun’s energy for use.
Concentrated Solar Powered System Types
Concentrated solar powered systems are available in lots of shapes and sizes, however, most of this type of solar installs will fall into one of four major categories: parabolic dishes, solar power towers, parabolic troughs, and linear Fresnel systems.
When it comes to parabolic dish concentrated solar powered systems, the mirrors are set up in a satellite dish with a receiver mounted in the middle, away from the mirrors (much like a receiver on a satellite). The sunlight will then reflect off the mirrors and hit the receivers focal point, which is usually what has the heat engine mounted directly on it.
The parabolic dish concentrated solar power systems have two big advantages over another kind of concentrated solar power systems is that they don’t require very much land space and these solar installs don’t require a lot of land space.
Solar Power Towers
Solar power towers are solar installs that will have a circle that is broken into four separate sections (picture a pie chart cut into fourths) of mirror reflectors at the ground level, which is also known as heliostats. These heliostats will run on a tracker system and will concentrate the sunlight all day long, reflecting it to a single focal point that is mounted on a tower in the center of the circle.
Within the receiver is a heat transfer fluid that is going to warm up, generate steam and then power a turbine in the generator, creating solar energy. This heat transfer is often a molten salt that is able to retain heat more efficiently than many other fluids are given its high heating capacity, which helps the efficiency of solar energy that is produced.
These solar installs are the most common solar installs for the concentrated solar powered systems used throughout the world. They are long u-shaped mirrors that will reflect the sunlight towards a tube that runs along the center, parallel to the mirrors. Inside that tube is a heat transfer fluid that gets hot as the sunlight is reflected towards the tube. Once it becomes hot, the liquid will then tun to a central solar power generator that will then use the heat to produce solar energy
Linear Fresnel Systems
These solar installs are very similar to the parabolic troughs, linear Fresnel systems will use rows of mirrors that have a parallel absorber which carries a heat transfer fluid. The biggest distinguishing factor between these two solar energy technologies is that the parabolic troughs will remain stationary, while linear Fresnel systems use trackers that are on the mirrors to increase the efficiency of solar energy that is concentrated and reflected the absorber.
The Efficiency of Solar Energy Coming From Concentrated Solar Power
The efficiency of solar energy which is coming from the concentrated solar powered system will depend on a few factors, which include the concentrated solar powered system, the receiver, and the engine. Most concentrated solar power technologies are going to show that their efficiency of solar energy is going to be between 7 and 25 percent.
The concentrated solar power efficiency of solar energy can be compared with the efficiency of solar energy that is coming from other sources of renewable energy. The wind turbines can achieve up to 59 percent efficiency of solar energy. Another one of the sources of renewable energy that gets very high levels of efficiency of solar energy is hydropower solar powered systems, which can get up to 90 percent of the efficiency of solar energy. When it comes to solar photovoltaic cells, the conversion rate of the efficiency of solar energy is very similar to concentrated solar power. Most of the solar panels that are on the market today will have a rate between 14 and 23 percent when it comes to the efficiency of solar energy.
Concentrated Solar Power vs. Photovoltaic Solar Panels
Even though concentrated solar power and photovoltaic cells have very similar efficiency of solar energy levels they have quite a few notable differences, which will include application, costs of solar energy and storage capacity,
Concentrated solar powered systems will require a whole lot of land space that has direct sunlight. This is the reason that there are limited mass solar installs when it comes to this solar powered system. They are also not used for residential solar installs whereas solar panels that are made up from photovoltaic cells are used in residential solar installs
Cost of Solar Energy
Solar panels that are made up of photovoltaic cells have a much lower cost of solar energy when it comes to solar installs of both residential and mass solar. This is because the solar installs of solar panels are easier and the hardware requirements help lower the cost of solar energy.
Concentrated solar power beats solar panels made up of photovoltaic cells in this one! Because the concentrated solar power system uses the transfer of heat from the absorbers to store the solar energy, for long periods of time. With solar panels made up of photovoltaic cells, you can store solar energy with solar powered batteries.
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