By collecting solar energy during daylight hours and storing it in hot molten salt, concentrating solar power technologies like power towers give utilities an alternative method for meeting peak loads. (Warren Gretz)
Concentrating solar power plants produce electric power by converting the sun’s energy into high-temperature heat using various mirror configurations. The heat is then channelled 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 systems can be sized for village power (10 kilowatts) or grid-connected applications (up to 100 megawatts). Some systems use thermal storage during cloudy periods or at night. Others can be combined with natural gas, and the resulting hybrid power plants provide high-value, dispatchable 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.