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Solar Thermal

Definition

The Solar Thermal concept to produce energy, not to be confused with the Solar Photovoltaic, is the conversion of sunlight heat into electricity.

The thermodynamic principle at the core of Solar Thermal facilities is the same across the different types of plant:

  1. Sunlight rays are concentrated to heat fluid containers
  2. High temperature fluid then supplies steam generators
  3. Steam produced drives turbines which generate electricity
Solar Thermal Tower

Solar Thermal plants advantage is to produce electricity during the day but also at night.
In fact, heat-tranfer fluids are able to maintain their temperature for long periods. Thus the fluid heat inertia keeps the steam production and electricity running even with no lights.

Comments

Solar Thermal technology is not as mature as it can be for Solar Photovoltaic. The development of Solar Thermal is today at the demonstrator stage without commercial developments in the pipeline yet.

Solar Thermal Parabolic Mirrors

In the scope of the Solar Thermal energy production, 3 main plant designs can be identified to heat the fluid:

  • Solar Thermal Tower
    Flat mirrors are installed in a field, all reflecting sunlight at the same tank, positioned at the top of a tower, and containing the heat-transfer fluid.
  • Solar Thermal Parabolic Mirrors
    The parabolic mirror follows the sun and concentrates light heat on the absorber tube placed at the center of the parabola. The fluid flowing through these tubes is heated and used for the steam generation.
  • Solar Thermal Fresnel Mirrors
    Rows of fresnel minors follow the sun to all reflect sun rays at one secondary reflector concentrating the heat on a unique absober bar. The heat from the fluid flowing through the bar is then transferred to steam.
Solar Thermal Fresnel Mirror

These three types types of Solar Thermal plants are developed in parallel and all present a common challenge.
The overall efficiency of the plant mainly depends on the heat-transfer fluid characteristics, as the steps of steam conversion and electricity generation has been mastered for decades.
In this perspective, most of the researches are carried out on the fluid itself. Today most advanced plants use molten-salt liquids as heat-transfer fluid because of their calorific capacity.

For these 3 designs, large demonstrators are now in construction to prove their respective efficiency. Meaning, these first few tests will serve as references for the scaled up projects.

Of course, you can count on Project Smart Explorer
to guide you on these projects:
www.projectsmartexplorer.com

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