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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Solar Energy

Thermal Solar or Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Innovates Rooftop Turbine Power

Thermal solar energy generation is being scaled down to the rooftop for peak energy savings and profitability

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solar thermal energy generation

Solar Power with Thermal Dishes

Concentrating solar power, or CSP, uses reflective troughs or dishes to concentrate sunlight to heat a liquid that flows through a pipe above the troughs. That heated liquid, which can be oil or water, is converted into steam to turn an electric turbine.

Solar Thermal Power Plants

Ausra and Nevada Solar One both produce large-scale, megawatt solar thermal power plants in the deserts such as California's. The customers are utilities, which need to boost the amount of renewable energy they generate to meet government regulations.

Small Solar Thermal for Building Roofs

But Sopogy, based in Honolulu, is thinking small with thermal solar and has taken the basic design of large solar thermal power plants and shrunk it down so it can fit on a building's roof. Each individual collector produces 500 watts. That's roughly what a house consumes, but strung together in an array on the ground or on a roof, these panels could supply a chunk of a commercial building's needs, for example.

Solar Thermal for Utility Power Generation

Coal or natural gas-fired power plants generate hundreds of megawatts, but utilities are looking at a variety of options for power generation during peak times in the middle of the day when the demand--and the price--of electricity is highest.

Optimal Timing Benefits of Solar Thermal

CSP has an advantage over even renewable energy sources such as wind, because it produces power when people need it the most. CSP projects are effectively competitive at higher prices because they are generating electricity at peak times. Solar systems--both thermal and photovoltaic--also have the advantage of being modular, so as they are scaled up, the price per kilowatt tends to go down.

Corporations are installing solar systems especially in sunny locations, to lock in fixed electricity rate over several years and contribute to their sustainability strategies.

Choosing Alternative and Renewable Energy Solutions

Choosing the RIGHT alternative or renewable fuel is half the battle. Focusing on peak power advantages are the "low-hanging fruit" of the renewable energy battle. But many companies are also finding that employee behavior during peak times save even more energy than these large co-generation installations. Turning off computers, using energy saving systems, and using daylight also reduce the need for energy generation.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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