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TopicsThisPage:
ParabolicTroughs
SolanaPlant
SolarTowerSystems
IvanpahPlants
DishStirlingSystems

ParabolicTroughSolarSystems

ConcentratedSolarPower(CSP)systemsuseverydifferenttechnologythanphotovoltaicsystems.CSPsystemsusethesunasthe
"thermalheat"sourceasopposedtothephotonenergyofthesunasPVsystemsdo.Mostelectricpowerplantsusesomeformoffossil
fuelasthethermalheatsourcetoboilwaterintosteam.Thesteamthenspinsalargeturbine,whichdrivesageneratortoproduce
electricity.ThethreemaintypesofCSPsystemsareparabolictrough,powertower,anddishSterlingenginesystems.Allusethethermal
energyfromthesuntogenerateelectricity.CSPsystemsaremarketedmainlytoutilitiesastheytakeupafairamountoflandandrequire
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mechanicalmaintenance.Theparabolictroughtechnologyisverymatureandaccountsforabout90%oftheinstalledCSPbase.
Troughsystemscollectthesun'senergyusinglongrectangular,parabolicmirrorcollectors.Thetroughfieldconsistsofalargearrayof
thesemodularcollectors.Manyparallelrowsofcollectorsspanacrossthesolarfield,normallyalignedon

anorthsouthaxis.Themirrorsmechanicallyrotateandfollowthesuneasttowest,focusingsunlightonreceivertubesthatrunthelength
ofthemirrors.Thereceivertubesarepositionedalongthefocallineofeachparabolicmirror.Thereflectedcondensedsunlightisvery
intenseandheatsafluidflowingthroughthetubestoaveryhightemperature(about550degreesCelsiusor1020degreesFahrenheit).The
veryhotfluidisthenusedtoheatwatertocreatesteamforaconventionalsteamturbinegeneratortoproduceelectricity.
Thereceivertubeisheatedbythereflectedsun'srayswhichinturnheatsupatransferfluidasitcirculatesthroughthetubes.Thereceiver
tubeisastainlesssteeltubewithaspecialsunlightabsorbingsurfaceandismountedinsideanantireflectiveouterglasstubewitha
vacuumseparatingthetwotubes.
Originallyaspecialtypeofoil,calledtherminol,wasusedasthetransferfluid.Today,newdesignsareusingamoltensaltcompoundas
thetransferfluid.Themoltensaltisamixtureof60percentsodiumnitrateand40percentpotassiumnitrate,commonlycalledsaltpeter.
Themoltensaltcanachieveahighertemperatureandholdheatlongerthanthetherminol.However,themoltensaltmustbekeptata
temperatureofabout290degreesCelsiustokeepitfluidas

thesaltfreezes(becomeslumpywithsolids)below220degreesC.Thismeansthatspecialcaremustbetakentoensurethatthesaltdoes
notfreezeinthefieldpipingduringthenight.Anotherhugeadvantageofthemoltensaltisthatitcanretainitsheatforuptosixhours
whenstoredinspeciallydesignedstoragetanks.Thismeansthatpowerisstillavailableforuptosixhoursafterthesungoeslowonthe
horizonenoughtocovertheperiodofpeakelectricaldemand.
Becausethetroughsolarpowerapproachusesconventionalsteamturbines,itiseasyforthesystemtointegrateseamlesslyintothe
electricalgrid.Andhavingstorageability,itcancompensateformovingcloudcoverandotherweatherphenomenon.Troughsolar
systemstypicallyrunabouta20%sunlighttoelectricityconversionefficiency.Becausetroughsystemsuseconventionalsteamturbines,
hybridconfigurationsoftroughsolarandnaturalgasturbines(oilandcoalarepossibletoo)canbebuiltforcontinuouselectricalpoweron
rainydaysandshortwinterdays.Severalhybridsystemsareproposedand/orindevelopmentintheUSandEurope.
Asshownintheaboveschematic,CSPuseswatertogeneratesteamandalsotocleanthevastarrayofmirrors.Whilethisisnotaproblem
inmostclimes,itisanissueindesertareas(whichhavethemostsunshine).Allothertypesofelectricalplantsusewatertodrivesteam
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turbines,andCSPisnodifferent.Thisisonlyanissueindesertareaswherewaterisatapremium.
Inessence,concentratedsolarpowerisbasicallyathermalapplicationofmechanicalengineeringandthermodynamics,whereas
photovoltaicpowerisanapplicationofelectricalengineeringandsemiconductors.Top

SolanaParabolicTroughPlantArizona

PresidentObamainJuly,2010,announcedthattheUSGovernmentwouldprovidea$1.45billionloanguaranteethroughtheStimulusAct
fortheSolanaCSPPlantinGilaBend,AZ.Thetotalcostisabout$2billion.Theprojectwasstartedinlate2010andwhencompletedin
2013,the280megawattplantwillbethelargestCSPplantintheworld.ItisbeingbuiltbyAbengoaSolar,theleadingSpanishCSP
company,whowillowntheplantandoperateit.SolanainSpanishmeans"sunnyplace".AsofMay,2013theSolanaPlantwasveryclose
tobeingfinished.
Theplantatfullcapacitywillsupplyelectricityforabout70,000homesandusetheequivalentamountofwaterforabout4,000homes.
Whilethisisnotinsignificant,thelandwaspreviouslyusedforfarmingandthewaterusewasaboutthreetofourtimesgreater.APS,the
largestelectricalutilityinAZ,willbuyalltheelectricitygeneratedbytheSolanaPlant.Solanawillalsomakeuseofmoltensaltstorage
forupto6hoursofextrapowertocoverthepeakhoursof4pmto7pmintheeveningespeciallyinthesummertime.Formore
informationpleasevisittheSolanaWebSite.Top

SolarTowerSystems

ThefirstcommercialsolartowersystemwasbuiltbyAbengoaSolarofSpainandisreferredtoasPS10attheSolucarPlatforminthe
SpanishprovinceofSeville.ItbeganoperationinMarch,2007andcontinuestothisday.Thesketchattheleftillustrateshowthesun's
raysaredirectedtothetopofthetower.ThesecondpicturetotheleftisthatofPS10atSolucar.Towersystemshavethreemain
components:groundheliostats,atower,andacentralreceiveratthetopofthetower.Thefunctionoftheheliostats(heliosingreekmeans
thesun)istocapturesolarradiationfromthesunandredirectittothecentralreceiver.Aheliostatrotatesintwodimensions,eastand
west,andnorthandsouth,trackingthesunasitmovesthroughoutthedayandthroughouttheyear.Toaccomplishthis,eachindividual
heliostatisguidedbyacomputerizedsystemwhichfollowsthesunandmaximizestotalenergyoutput.

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Dualaxistrackingallowstheheliostatfieldtoproduceoptimumpowerformorehoursofthedaythanispossiblewithsystemsthatrelyon
eitherfixedmountsorsingleaxistracking.Theheliostatsarecomposedofreflectiveglassmirrors,asupportingstructureandmechanisms
toorientatethem.Theyareverylarge1300squarefeeteachandthereisagrandtotalof624ofthem.
Thecentralizedreceiverislocatedintheuppersectionofthetower.Thereceiverisa"cavity"receivercomposedoffourverticalpanels
thatare18feetwideby39feettall.Thepanelsarearrangedinasemicircleconfigurationandhousedinasquareopening36feetby36
feet.
Thereceiverabsorbsthesunlightfromtheheliostatsandtansferstheenergytoacirculatingfluid,usuallymoltensalt.Thesaltiseither
storedforfutureuseorittransfersitsenergytosaturatedsteamsystemat250degreesCelsius.Thesteamthendrivesaconventional
turbineatthebottomofthetower.ThePS10systemstoresuptoonehour'sworthofsteamforadditionalelectricityasrequired.Oncloudy
daysthesystemcangenerate15%ofitstotalcapacitybyusinganauxiliarynaturalgasturbinetogenerateitsownelectricityandhelpfeed
themainsolarsteamturbinewithitswasteenergywhichrunsabout50%.Thetotalefficiencyfromsolarradiationtoelectricityis17%.
Thisisquitegoodrecognizingthattheefficiencyofthesteamcycleisonly27%.Thetowersupportsthereceiverwhichneedstobea
certainheightabovetheheliostat'sleveltoavoidorreduceshadeandotherobstructions.Top

IvanpahPlantsCalifornia

Thereareseveal"tower"solarprojectsproceedingintheUS.ThelargestisIvanpahinsoutheasternCalifornialocatedon3,500acresof
federallandintheMohaveDesert.Ivanpahisa377megawatttowersolarprojectbeingdevelopedbyBrightSourceEnergy.Thecomplex
willconsistofthreeseparateplantsbeingbuiltbetween2010and2013.Thefirsttowerisshownattheleft.
BrightSourcehassignedcontractstoprovidethepowertoPG&EandSouthernCaliforniaEdison.392megawattsisenoughenergyto
power140,000homesduringpeakhoursoftheday.Theprojectislocatednearexistingroads,transmissionlines,andanaturalgaspower
plant.Theprojectwillreducecarbondioxide(CO2)emissionsbymorethan400,000tonsannually,whichistheequivalentoftakingmore
than70,000carsofftheroad.BrightSourceslowimpactheliostatlayoutisflexible,allowingthesolarfieldtobebuiltaroundthenatural
contoursofthelandandavoidsareasofsensitivevegetation.Inordertoconservescarcewaterresources,thetechnologyemploysanair
coolingsystemtorecyclethesteambackintowaterinaclosedloopsystemandthenisreusedtocleanmirrors.Byusingaircooling,
BrightSourcestechnologyuses90percentlesswaterthanoldertechnologytroughplantswithwetcooling.TheIvanpahProjectwas
namedthe2012EnergyProjectOfTheYearbytheCMAAGreenSymposium.FormoreinformationpleasevisittheIvanpahWebSite.
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DishStirlingSystems

AdishStirlingsystemusesamuchdifferenttechnologythanotherconcentratingtechnologies.Itdoesnotusewaterorsteamexceptfora
verysmallamounttowashtheconcentrators.ThesystemstillfallsintothethermalCSPclassofproductsasitusestheheatfromthesun
todriveaStirlingenginetogenerateelectricity.ThedishStirlingsystemiscomposedofaparabolicconcentrator,asolarlightreceiver
shapedlikeacavity,andaStirlingEngine.(SeeabrieftutorialonStirlingEngines.)Theconcentratorisahighlyreflectivemirrordish
similartoaverylargesatellitedish.Theveryconcentratedsunlight(800timesnormal)heatsaworkingfluidincontactwiththereceiver
toatemperatureofapproximately650C.Thethermalenergycausesthecylinderpistonenginetooscillatebackandforthat50or60
cyclespersecond.ThepistonmovesamagnetbackandforthinsideacoilofwirewhichgeneratesanACcurrent.Theengineisaircooled
bymeansofaradiatorandaclosedwaterbasedcoolantsystem.SeeananimatedillustrationoftheInfiniaSterlingEngineinaction.(Note
thattherearequiteafewdifferentStirlingenginedesigns.)Tomaximizepoweroutput,theheliostatincorporatesacomputerized
mechanicalsystemtotrackthesundaily,easttowest,andseasonally,northandsouth,usingatwoaxissystem.TheInfiniaPowerDish
(shownattheleft)generates3.2kWofelectricityperdishandis24%efficient(excellentforanysolardevice).Ituseslesslandthanother
typesofsolarpowerandthelanddoesnothavetobeflat.Aonemegawattinstallationwouldrequire334dishesandrequirefouracres.
(SeetheInfiniaVideo.)

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