As time goes by, the demand for energy rises while finite resources gradually diminish. The concept of going ‘green’ or using infinite resources has become more and more common in the marketplace. With this in mind, the abundance and reliability of solar energy makes for an attractive alternative. This is because solar power is different. This statement, of course, begs the question of HOW solar power differs.
Common traditional power plants still utilizes finite fuel. Steam power plants, for example, use the fuel as an energy source to boil water which, in turn, allows the the steam to turn the turbine and drive the generator to produce electricity. Concentrated solar power systems, however, use heat energy from the sun as a heat source – which is renewable. This system works by using utilizing mirrors or mirror-like materials to concentrate energy from the sun and then takes that energy to produce steam. The system can also store the energy that is absorbed during the day, to be used at night when the sun is not present. There are a few different types of concentrated solar power systems which one can choose from.
- Parabolic Trough: This type of solar power uses a curved mirror to focus the sun’s energy to a receiver tube with high temperature heat transfer fluid which absorbs the sun’s energy and passes it through a heat exchanger to heat water which produces steam.
- Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector: The working principle of this solar power type is rather similar to parabolic trough, though instead of using a curved mirror, this application utilizes flat mirrors which are more economical. These mirrors act as reflectors to focus the solar energy into the tubes to generate high-pressure steam.
- Power Tower: The power tower uses heliostats to track the sun movement and focus the solar energy to a receiver in the middle which is installed into an elevated tower. This application has been found to have better efficiencies compared to other types of solar power and can run on a higher temperature. The use of molten salt as a transfer fluid for the power tower applications is relatively common and helps improve efficiency.
- Dish-Engine: This type of solar power utilizes mirrors that are designed to be distributed over a dish surface to concentrate solar power to a receiver in the middle. The application runs on a very high temperature and uses transfer fluid with a very high boiling point to power a high requirement engine.
Newer applications tend to lead to the installation and use of power tower design, since this design allows technology storage implementation which can be seen as a reliable option for the future of concentrated solar power application, not to mention the economic benefit it has compared to other technology storage implementation.