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Learn the basics about concentrating solar power and how this technology generates energy.
Department of Energy

What is concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technology and how does it work? CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver. The energy from the concentrated sunlight heats a high temperature fluid in the receiver.

This heat - also known as thermal energy - can be used to spin a turbine or power an engine to generate electricity. It can also be used in a variety of industrial applications, like water desalination, enhanced oil recovery, food processing, chemical production, and mineral processing.

Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Applications graphic

Concentrating solar-thermal power systems are generally used for utility-scale projects. These utility-scale CSP plants can be configured in different ways. Power tower systems arrange mirrors around a central tower that acts as the receiver. Linear systems have rows of mirrors that concentrate the sunlight onto parallel tube receivers positioned above them. 

Smaller CSP systems can be located directly where power is needed. For example, single dish/engine systems can produce 5 to 25 kilowatts of power per dish and be used in distributed applications.

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Learn more about concentrating solar-thermal power research in the Solar Energy Technologies Office, check out these solar energy information resources, and find out more about how solar works.