Concentrating Solar Power Basics

August 20, 2013

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Energy 101: Concentrating Solar Power

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This solar concentrator has a fixed-focus faceted
dish with a concentration of about 250 suns. This
system can be used for large fields connected to
the utility grid, hydrogen generation, or water
Credit: Science Applications International
Corporation / PIX 13464

Concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a single point where it is collected and converted into heat. This thermal energy can then be used to produce electricity.

Concentrating solar power systems are generally used for utility-scale projects. The mirrors in CSP plants focus sunlight onto a receiver that heats a high-temperature fluid, which is used to spin a turbine or power an engine that drives a generator. The final product is electricity.

Smaller CSP systems can be located directly where power is needed. For example, single dish/engine systems can produce 3 to 25 kilowatts of power and are well suited for distributed applications.

There are several varieties of CSP systems. Learn more about:

Learn more about the latest CSP research from the SunShot Initiative.