Concentrated Solar Power Technology
Solar Thermal Electricity (STE) technology, also called Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), provides clean and reliable power from between10kW to 200 MW depending on the size and the technology used. Concentrated Solar thermal power plants produce electric power by converting the sun’s direct solar radiation energy into high temperature heat using various mirror or lens configurations. The first commercial solar thermal power plants were built in the 80’s and the current global installed capacity is almost 3000 MW worldwide.
In Europe, 39 plants with an installed capacity of more than 1700 MW are currently connected to the grid, another 14 plants are under construction and more than12 projects are pre-assigned.
The 4 technologies available are Parabolic Troughs, Central Receivers, Parabolic Dishes and Linear Fresnel Reflectors. Except for the parabolic dishes working with a Stirling engine, the 3 other technologies concentrate the direct solar radiation from the sun to a heat transfer fluid that carries the heat to a steam circuit and activates a turbine, thus creating electricity. The STE technology has the great advantage to be dispatchable and be easily integrated to the grid at any time thanks to a storage system and hybridisation systems that could be integrated in the power plant. Many efforts are done in order to reduce costs, increase efficiency and dispatchability in order to reach rapidly competitive costs on the market.
In the mid-long term, these technologies will play an important role in the South of Europe and the Mediterranean area and in other regions located in the world's 'Sun Belt'.
The World's "Sun Belt"
The challenge in the coming years. The World's "Sun Belt" that extends from latitudes 35° north to 35° south, receives several thousand times the world's energy demand: a resource which is currently not exploited. On the other hand, dramatic changes are to be introduced in the current energy systems to mitigate their negative impact on the environment and the world's climate. A large part of this enormous energy could be harnessed through solar thermal technologies, conveyed and used in a sustainable way.