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• Solar thermal power generation systems use mirrors to collect sunlight and produce steam by solar heat
to drive turbines for generating power.
• This system generates power by rotating turbines like thermal and nuclear power plants, and therefore, is
suitable for large-scale power generation.
• Every day, the sun radiates (sends out) an enormous amount of energy—called solar energy. It radiates
more energy in one day than the world uses in one year. This energy comes from within the sun itself.
• Today, people use solar energy to heat buildings and water and to generate electricity. Solar energy
accounts for a very small percentage of U.S. energy—less than one percent. Solar energy is mostly used
by residences and to generate electricity.
Solar Thermal System:
There are two types of Solar Thermal Systems:
Passive: A passive system requires no equipment, like when heat builds up inside your car when it's left
parked in the sun. E.g. Thermal chimneys
Active: An active system requires some way to absorb and collect solar radiation and then store it. E.g.
Solar thermal power plants
Basic Working Principles:

• Mirrors reflect and concentrate sunlight.

• Receivers collect that solar energy and convert it into heat energy.
• A generator can then be used to produce electricity from this heat energy.
Solar Power Generations
There are two main ways of generating energy from the sun:

Photovoltaic (PV)
----- Converts sunlight directly

Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST)

-----Generate electricity indirectly
• In 1866, Auguste Mouchout used a parabolic trough to produce steam for the first solar steam engine.
• In 1886, the first patent for a solar collector was obtained by the Italian Alessandro Battaglia in Genoa,

• In 1913, Frank Shuman finished a 55 HP parabolic solar thermal energy station in Maadi, Egypt for
• In 1929, the first solar-power system using a mirror dish was built by American Scientist Dr. R.H.

• In 1968, the first concentrated-solar plant, which entered into operation in Sant'Ilario, near Genoa, Italy.
• In 1981, The 10 MW Solar One power tower was developed in Southern California.

• In 1984, the parabolic-trough technology of the Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) begun its
combined capacity is 354 MW.

• In 2014, the world's largest solar thermal plant (392 MW) achieves commercial operation in Ivanpah,
California, USA.

Thermal Energy Storage (TES) - TES are high-pressure liquid storage tanks used along with a solar thermal system
to allow plants to bank several hours of potential electricity.

• Two-tank direct system: solar thermal energy is stored right in the same heat-transfer fluid that collected

• Two-tank indirect system: functions basically the same as the direct system except it works with
different types of heat-transfer fluids.

• Single-tank thermocline system: stores thermal energy as a solid, usually silica sand.

Types of Solar Thermal Power Plants

Parabolic trough System
• A parabolic trough consists of a linear parabolic reflector that concentrates light onto a receiver positioned
along the reflector's focal line.
• The receiver is a tube positioned directly above the middle of the parabolic mirror and filled with a
working fluid.
• The reflector follows the sun during the daylight hours by tracking along a single axis.
• A working fluid (e.g. molten salt) is heated to 150–350 °C (423–623 K (302–662 °F)) as it flows through
the receiver and is then used as a heat source for a power generation system.
Parabolic Trough System

Solar Power Tower Systems

• Power towers (also known as 'central tower' power plants or 'heliostat' power plants).
• These designs capture and focus the sun's thermal energy with thousands of tracking mirrors (called
heliostats) in roughly a two square mile field.
• A tower resides in the center of the heliostat field. The heliostats focus concentrated sunlight on a receiver
which sits on top of the tower.
• Within the receiver the concentrated sunlight heats molten salt to over 1,000 °F (538 °C).
• The heated molten salt then flows into a thermal storage tank where it is stored, maintaining 98% thermal
efficiency, and eventually pumped to a steam generator.
• The steam drives a standard turbine to generate electricity.
Solar Power Tower Systems (Image)

Solar Dish / Engine System

Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector
• Linear Fresnel reflectors use long, thin segments of mirrors to focus sunlight onto a fixed absorber located
at a common focal point of the reflectors.
• These mirrors are capable of concentrating the sun’s energy to approximately 30 times its normal intensity.
• This concentrated energy is transferred through the absorber into some thermal fluid.
• The fluid then goes through a heat exchanger to power a steam generator.

Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector

Enclosed Parabolic Trough
• The enclosed parabolic trough solar thermal system encapsulates the components within a greenhouse-
like glasshouse.
• The glasshouse protects the components from the elements that can negatively impact system reliability
and efficiency.
• Lightweight curved solar-reflecting mirrors are suspended from the ceiling of the glasshouse by wires.
• A single-axis tracking system positions the mirrors to retrieve the optimal amount of sunlight.
• The mirrors concentrate the sunlight and focus it on a network of stationary steel pipes, also suspended
from the glasshouse structure.
• Water is pumped through the pipes and boiled to generate steam when intense sun radiation is applied. y
steel pipes, also suspended from the glasshouse structure.
Enclosed Parabolic Trough
Photovoltaic Potential

• “The basic resource potential for solar PV in the United States is virtually unlimited compared to any
foreseeable demand for energy.”

• Paul Denholm, Robert Margolis, & Ken Zweibel, “Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Solar
Photovoltaics by 2030,” in Tackling Climate Change In The US: Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions
From Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy By 2030, p.99 (Charles F. Kutcher, ed., 2007)

• PV is flexible enough that it can be adapted for use in many areas.

Photovoltaic Cells

Photoelectric Effect
• Basic process by which a photovoltaic cell converts absorbed sunlight into electricity
• “Photons” knock electrons free from the silicon structure, freeing them to enter electric current and power
a “load” (like a light bulb)
Environmental Impacts of Solar Power

 The sun provides a tremendous resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity without toxic
pollution or global warming emissions.
 The potential environmental impacts associated with solar power the potential environmental impacts
associated with solar power — land use and habitat loss, water use, and the use of hazardous materials in
manufacturing — can vary greatly depending on the technology, which includes two broad categories:
photovoltaic (PV) solar cells or concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP).
Land Use:

 Depending on their location, larger utility-scale solar facilities can raise concerns about land
degradation and habitat loss. Total land area requirements varies depending on the technology, the
topography of the site, and the intensity of the solar resource.

Water Use:

 Solar PV cells do not use water for generating electricity. However, as in all manufacturing processes,
some water is used to manufacture solar PV components.

 Concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP), like all thermal electric plants, require water for cooling.
Water use depends on the plant design, plant location, and the type of cooling system.

 CSP plants that use wet-recirculating technology with cooling towers withdraw between 600 and 650
gallons of water per megawatt-hour of electricity produced.

Hazardous Materials

 The PV cell manufacturing process includes a number of hazardous materials, most of which are used to
clean and purify the semiconductor surface. These chemicals, similar to those used in the general
semiconductor industry, include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1,1,1-
trichloroethane, and acetone. The amount and type of chemicals used depends on the type of cell, the
amount of cleaning that is needed, and the size of silicon wafer [4]. Workers also face risks associated
with inhaling silicon dust. Thus, PV manufactures must follow U.S. laws to ensure that workers are not
harmed by exposure to these chemicals and that manufacturing waste products are disposed of properly.
Advantages of Solar Thermal Energy

• No Fuel Cost

• Predictable, 24/7 Power

• No Pollution and Global Warming Effects

• Using Existing Industrial Base

Disadvantages of Solar Thermal Energy

• High Cost

• Future Technology has a high probability of making CSP Obsolete

• Ecological and Cultural Issues

• Limited Locations and Size Limitations

• Long Gestation Time Leading to Cost Overruns

Major Challenges

• The major challenge are the Installation Cost and energy storage.

• The costs are still far higher than fossil fuel plants based on units of energy produced.

• The hot water storage products are often stretched to their limits.

• Alternatives could be phase change materials (PCMs) or thermo-chemical materials (TCMs).

• In addition to sensible heat, the technologies of latent heat and thermo-chemical energy storage are on
their way to becoming very promising solutions for the future of solar heating and cooling.


• In the face of global warming, rising fuel costs and an ever-growing demand for energy, energy needs are
expected to increase by nearly the equivalent of 335 million barrels of oil per day, mostly for electricity.

• By concentrating solar energy with reflective materials and converting it into electricity, modern solar
thermal power plants, if adopted today as an indispensable part of energy generation, may be capable of
sourcing electricity to more than 100 million people in the next 20 years. All from one big renewable
resource: THE SUN.