Concentrating Solar Power

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Concentrating Solar Power - CSP

What is
Concentrating Solar Power?

Concentrating Solar Power plants, also referred to "CSP" plants, generate electric power by converting the sun's energy into high-temperature heat using various mirror configurations. The heat is then channeled through a conventional generator. The plants consist of two parts: one that collects solar energy and converts it to heat, and another that converts heat energy to electricity.

Concentrating Solar Power plants can be sized for village power (10 kilowatts) or grid-connected applications (up to 100 megawatts). 

Some Concentrating Solar Power plants now integrate "molten salt storage" systems which stores the excess heat generated during the daytime for use during the night and cloudy periods which will soon permit Concentrating Solar Power to run 24 x 7.  

Other Concentrating Solar Power plants can be combined with natural gas and the resulting hybrid power plants provide high-value power. These attributes, along with world record solar-to-electric conversion efficiencies, make concentrating solar power an attractive renewable energy option in the Southwest and other sunbelt regions worldwide.


Picture by Self Reliance, Inc.

Picture by Self Reliance, Inc.

Concentrating Solar Power

Balance Of Plant  *  Balance Of System  *  Concentrated PV  *  Concentrated Solar Power  *  EcoGeneration  *  Molten Salt Storage

Net Zero Energy  Parabolic Trough  *  Power Purchase Agreement  *  Renewable Energy Credits  *  Solar Cogeneration

"The Future of Energy is Net Zero Energy!" sm

Way Beyond Solar sm

"Net Zero Energy" to Reach Revenues of $690 Billion / year by 2020
and $1.3 Trillion / year Industry by 2035


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Why Concentrating Solar Power is one of the Few "Superior" Renewable Energy Technologies 

Concentrating solar power plants, also referred to as "concentrating solar power" and "concentrating solar thermal" plants, use the high annual solar irradiance of the geographic location to generate "carbon free energy" and "pollution free power."

For generating power after the sun sets, many owners/developers of concentrating solar power plants are now installing "Molten Salt Storage" systems that reserves enough energy to allow for electricity generation throughout the nighttime period.  

Steam turbines and gas turbines powered by coal, uranium, oil and natural gas are the fuels used today for generating power and electric grid stability.  These fuels provide both base-load and peak power.  However, these same steam turbines can also be powered by the high temperature heat from concentrating solar power plants. 

Concentrating solar power plants in the 30 MW - 200 MW range are now operating successfully in locations from California to Europe.  Nearly every day now, new concentrating solar power plants are being planned for construction.  The concentrating solar collectors are very efficient and they also completely replace the fossil fuels that were used in traditional power plants.  Today's concentrating solar power plants generate the heat needed to generate electricity at a cost equivalent to $50 - $60 per barrel of oil (equivalent).  This cost is expected be slashed by 50% to below $25 - $30 per barrel in the next 10 years. 

Just like conventional fossil-fueled power plants, concentrating solar power plants generate  base-load and peaking power electricity.  

Just like fossil fuel fired conventional power plants, concentrating solar power plants have an availability that is close to 100 %, but without the carbon emissions, carbon dioxide emissions, hazardous air pollutants, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and greenhouse gas emissions that fossil fuel power plants emit.

A concentrating solar power plant with a molten salt storage facility for full load operation during the nighttime period is currently being built in Nevada.  This concentrating solar power plant will generate 50 MW of power.

Another feature that distinguishes concentrating solar power plants is the opportunity for combined generation of heat and power - a technology that is called "Integrated Solar Combined Cycle" which achieves the highest possible efficiencies for energy conversion. In addition to power generation, such plants can provide steam for absorption chillers or adsorption chillers, industrial process heat or thermal ocean water desalination. A design study for such a plant was completed in 2006.  This plant is scheduled to be commissioned in early 2009. This Integrated Solar Combined Cycle will provide 10 MW of power, 40 MW of district cooling and 10,000 cubic meters per day of desalted water for a large hotel in Jordan.

What is a "Parabolic Trough" ?

A parabolic trough is one of the components that make up a concentrating solar power plant.

Parabolic Troughs are, in essence, curved mirrors designed to reflect the energy from the sunlight, onto a "Dewar Tube" that  run the length of the parabolic trough's focal point.  Parabolic Troughs are typically constructed with either a coated silver or polished aluminum. 

Parabolic Troughs are aligned on a north-south basis and they track or rotate throughout the day to follow the sun in order to keep the maximum amount of the sun's available energy concentrated on them.

Inside the Dewar Tube is a "heat transfer fluid" that absorbs the heat energy from the sun, which is then pumped from the Dewar Tube to a Heat Recovery Steam Generator, where the heat energy is converted into steam, which then drives one or more steam turbines, which is connected to a synchronous generator, which then generates electricity and is sent to the electric grid. 

The temperature of the heat transfer fluid quickly reaches 750 degrees as the sun's energy is captured by the Parabolic Troughs.  The overall process is very economical and thermal efficiency ranges from about 60% to as high as 80%.


All the Electricity the World Needs With Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions
from Concentrating Solar Power Plants Using a Very Small Part of the Desert

In the map below, the larger red square on the left shows an area of hot desert that, if covered with concentrating solar power plants, 
would produce as much electricity as the world currently uses. The smaller square shows a corresponding area for providing all of the 
power needed by the European Union.


The map and information above courtesy of

Over $5.5 billion in New Investment for Clean Energy Technology in the Middle East and North Africa Region

Washington, D.C.,  December 1, 2009 -  Concentrated Solar Power project financing in the amount of $750 million was issued on December 2, 2009, and will mobilize an additional $4.85 billion from other sources, to accelerate global deployment of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). It will do so by investing in the CSP programs of five countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. The CTF is a multi-donor trust fund to facilitate deployment of low-carbon technologies at scale. Specifically, the CTF approved an investment plan which will:

The proposed gigawatt-scale deployment through 11 commercial-scale power plants over a 3-5 year time-frame would provide the critical mass of investments necessary to attract significant private sector interest, benefit from economies of scale to reduce cost, result in learning in diverse operating conditions, and manage risk.

Officials stated "This is a most strategic and significant initiative for MENA countries. The initiative would leverage energy diversification, while promoting Euro-Mediterranean integration to the benefit of MENA countries that will be able to exploit one of the major untapped sources of energy. This endeavor is far-reaching with global objectives, implications, and potential impact. It will facilitate faster and greater diffusion of this technology in this region which holds significant potential for CSP".

Potential for Green House Gas (GHG) reduction: The proposed projects will avoid about 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide per year from the energy sectors of the countries. If the program is successful and replicated, the global benefits will be far larger. The transformational objective of this investment plan is served by accelerating cost reduction for a technology that could become least-cost globally, and then be replicated in other countries with high GHG emissions.

Expected Results from the Investment plan: The results indicators for the investment plan are:

§ GHG reductions of at least 1.7 million tons of CO2-equivalent per year.

§ Approximately 900 MW of installed CSP capacity by 2020.

§ $4.85 billion of co-financing mobilized, including sufficient financing to ensure viability of CSP plants.

§ Cost of typical solar field in US$ per m2 is expected to decline over the life of the program.

Click Here to Learn More About Concentrating Solar Power

What is Balance of Plant?

Balance of plant or "BOP," consists of the remaining systems, components, and structures that comprise a complete power plant or energy system - not included in the prime mover and waste heat recovery (ex. gas turbines, steam turbines, heat recovery steam generators (HRSG), waste heat boilers, etc.) systems.  

What is Balance of System?

In solar power plants, balance of system or "BOS," refers to the equipment and components of the solar power plant other than the parabolic trough or solar photovoltaic panels, consisting of the remaining components that make-up the entire solar power plant. Therefore, the balance of system would include; inverters, switches, support racks, wiring and the batteries/battery energy storage system and molten salt storage if installed in the case of concentrating solar power plants.

Land is sometimes included as part of the solar power plant's balance of system.

What is Front End Engineering Design?

Front-end Engineering Design, also known as Front End Engineering  or "FEED," is the preliminary engineering and conceptual design completed in advance of the start of EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction).  Front End Engineering usually concludes with the engineering firm's presentation of an Engineering Feasibility Study or Analysis.

Front-end Engineering Design includes a design team that includes and integrates all or most engineering fields such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, civil engineering, power engineering, chemical engineering, etc.  The FEED design team includes the project visualization and conceptualization stages, including "what-if" decision making analyses, integrating the client company's goals, objectives into an efficient and economic engineering solution.

Engineering, Procurement and Construction

Replacing the "brown" power generated from fossil fuel power plants with renewable energy power plants such as Concentrating Solar Power plants, not only generates green power, but eliminates Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Hazardous Air Pollutants, while reducing imports of foreign oil!


“spending hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars every year for oil, much of it from the Middle East, is just about the single stupidest thing that modern society could possibly do.  It’s very difficult to think of anything more idiotic than that.” ~ R. James Woolsey, Jr., former Director of the CIA

Price of Addiction
to Foreign Oil

According to R. James Woolsey, for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, “The basic insight is to realize that global warming, the geopolitics of oil, and warfare in the Persian Gulf are not separate problems — they are aspects of a single problem, the West’s dependence on oil.”


"Changing the Way the World Makes and Uses Energy" SM


American Energy Plan sm

3-5 million new jobs
Fuel Savings of > $1.50/gallon
American Energy Independence
Ends the worst economic depression of all time




Balance Of Plant - BOP


Balance Of System - BOS



Battery Energy Storage





Concentrated Solar Power - CSP





Energy Investment Banking




Engineering Procurement Construction - EPC






Front-end Engineering Design - FEED





Enhanced Oil Recovery




Solar Power now "Cheaper than Coal!" sm




Molten Salt Storage





Net Zero Energy










Parabolic Troughs




Power Purchase Agreements - PPA



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Concentrating Solar Power - CSP


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