What is concentrated solar power? | Torresol Energy

What is concentrated solar power?

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) consists in concentrating heat (from the sun) into one point. This way, steam is generated to drive the turbine. Furthermore, this type of plant can work constantly, as part of the heat is stored. This allows for it to continue producing steam and supplying energy when there is a lack of solar irradiation. 

At Torresol Energy, we are committed to technologies focused on the design, construction, use and maintenance of high-power electricity plants. These technologies allow for the development of: 

  • Central tower power plants. A set of heliostats (plane mirrors) concentrate the sun’s heat onto a central receiver on the upper part of a tower that is more than 100 meters tall. The fluid that runs through the receiver (in our case, molten salts) absorbs the highly-concentrated solar radiation and converts it into thermal energy, to be used to generate steam. The steam activates the turbine, and thus produces electricity. 
  • Cylindrical-parabolic collector plants. These are reflectors in the form of a parabolic channel cross section, arranged in horizontal rows, where there are collector tubes in the focuses. A heat-transferring fluid runs through these tubes (synthetic thermal oil). The reflectors concentrate light on said tubes, which increases the temperature of the oil. The hot oil is used to vaporize water, which, carried to a steam turbine, activates a generator that feeds electric power to the grid. 

Both technologies use a thermal storage system, which allows them to:   

  • Avoid fluctuations in the power supply. 
  • Continue producing energy during hours when there is no solar radiation, and therefore direct generation is not possible. 
  • Move the production peaks according to demand. 

Over the last few years, SENER has made significant developments in solar technology: 

  • The heliostat with a 120m2 reflective surface area, with excellent optical characteristics and high pointing precision, used by Gemasolar. 
  • The H-54 heliostat, of 180 m2, which, having been tested and trialled at Gemasolar, has been incorporated into the solar field of the Noor III plant in Morocco. 
  • The molten salts receiver with the capacity to operate with high fluxes of incident solar radiation, and provide much greater thermal efficiency than its predecessors. 
  • Furthermore, SENER has developed and validated the design criteria for this pioneering thermal storage system, with working temperatures of more than 500ºC. 

Concentrated solar power is clean and reliable, and can be produced during high peaks of demand, with the potential to satisfy the country’s growing needs in the future.