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Concentrating Solar Power Basics

August 20, 2013 - 4:38pm


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 receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat. This thermal energy can then be used to produce electricity via a steam turbine or heat engine that drives a generator.

Concentrating solar power offers a utility-scale, firm, dispatchable renewable energy option that can help meet our nation's demand for electricity. CSP plants produce power by first using mirrors to focus sunlight to heat a working fluid. Ultimately, this high-temperature fluid 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:

Or learn more about the latest CSP research from the SunShot Initiative.