Solar Thermal Electricity is the electricity obtained by the heat produced because of solar energy. Generation of power using the sun’s heat energy has gained popularity from the past two decades but it has a long history.
Current innovations and improvements have surely raised the bar for electricity generation using solar thermal energy. There are a variety of methods which are being successfully used for generating clean electricity, let’s find out about them. Headed off already, ahh i do share the excitement with you my Friend but first lets’ take a look at its history.
Swiss Scientist & Researcher Horace de Saussure built the Worlds’ First Solar Collector during the year 1767.
After the invention of the First Solar Collector, Robert Stirling applied for a patent for his Economizer on the 27th September 1816 which was later used in a dish system called as the Stirling System, this system concentrated the sun’s heat energy which would in turn was used for generating electricity.
John Ericsson a Swedish Inventor who worked and lived in the United States was the first person to design and built the World’s first solar dish, in Pasadena California.
From then onwards there has been a hunger for innovations & improvements which has finally brought this technology to you and me.
Now that you have a fair idea about the history, let’s understand how electricity is generated using various devices & commonly preferred solar thermal technology.
The Parabolic Trough Collectors are one of the most widely used solar thermal technologies worldwide for generating solar thermal electric power.
Parabolic Shaped collectors made of highly reflective material concentrate the incident sunlight along the focal line of the collector. A pipe containing a heat transfer fluid is fitted along the focal length. The Concentrated Sunlight thus heats the fluid thereby causing a conversion of light into usable heat.
This fluid is later used to create steam which in turn drives a steam turbine to generate thermal solar power.
The Parabolic Dish Collector is a system which uses the point focus instead of the parabolic trough collector which uses a pipe along the focal length.
This system has large single parabolic reflector which is very much similar to a satellite dish antenna.
They typically have concentration ratios in the range 600 to 2000, thereby allowing them to heat the circulating fluid up to 1500°C.
As a dual axis sun tracker always keeps the dish facing the sun it one of the most efficient systems available for generating solar thermal power using the sun's heat.
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A Solar Thermal power plant which require high input of concentrated sunlight implement heliostat fields. A Tower is situated at the center of the heliostats. These heliostats further focus the incident sunlight on a receiver situated on the top of the centrally located tower.
The Incident Concentrated Sunlight then heats up the heat transfer fluid which can be used for production of steam for electricity generation. Such an arrangement is termed as Solar Power Tower.
All these are the avenues of generation of solar thermal electricity. The largeness of projects implementing these methods thereby ensures that electricity generated is a lot cheaper as compared to electricity generated by using solar panels. Providing greater incentives on renewable energy will surely help the world’s rising energy demands wherein solar thermal electricity can contribute positively.
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