The Azimuth Project
Concentrated solar power (Rev #9, changes)

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Concentrated solar power uses lenses or mirrors to concentrate sunlight, producing heat which drives a heat engine, usually a steam turbine, connected to a generator. This is a different idea than photovoltaic solar power, where solar radiation is directly converted to electricity without the use of steam turbines. One should also distinguish between solar power — that is, ways of turning solar radiation into electrical power — and other uses of solar energy, e.g. heating household water.

For examples of concentrated solar power plants, already operational or planned, see our articles:


Google is interested in concentrated solar power.


Nine units of SEGS (Solar Electricity Generating) plants built mid eighties through early nineties, in the Southern California deserts have been reliably generating a total of ~350 megawatts ever since.

With the recent permitting of other large scale CSP power plants also in California, more upgraded parabolic mirrors collector arrays will be used with a projected optical efficiency of 83%. See for example the Blythe solar power project recently approved by California Energy Commission, which will consist of four identical 250 megawatt power plants. This plant, called Blythe Solar Power Project (units 1 and 2) developed by Solar Millennium LLC, will be the largest solar power plant ever to be built at a single location:

However, the First Solar Agua Caliente photovoltaic solar power plant, with an 290 megawatt alternating current rating, is still slated to be the single largest solar generating plant in the world when completed. The annual average solar to electric efficiency of the concentrated solar power plants is still lower than the conventional photovoltaic power plants, but as technology improves, this efficiency figure may change.


category: energy