All About Concentrated Power Systems

Jamey Stillings

Solar panels in the Philippines are growing in popularity as more and more people look for sustainable, green solutions to generate more power. While solar panels are indeed costly at first, it is an investment that pays for itself over time in what one will be able to save in electrical bills.

But much like any other shopper, getting to know the product first is essential. In several previous posts we’ve already covered the basics and the utilization of PV in the Philippines, so now we’ll cover its larger scale counterpart which functions on a variably different system. While not as used, it’s just as important. In this post, we will be tackling concentrated power systems – so what are they, and how do they work?

Concentrating Solar Power

Sunlight is the main source of power for solar panels. In order to get it, mirrors are used to concentrate the light produced by the sun to transform it into high-temperature heat energy by creating steam to generate electrical power by a driving turbine or a using a conventional generator. It consists of two parts, one that stores solar energy to convert to heat, and the other which converts the heat energy into electricity. CSP in the United States have been functioning well for about 15 years already. In order to produce electricity on a commercial area, the technological method for all CSP needs large spaces to store solar radiation.

CSP requires three technological approaches:


Trough Systems

Large, U-shape reflectors with oil-filled pipes along the focal point are used in trough systems. The mirror reflectors are slanted to get sunlight on the pipes so that heat will reach 750°F with oil inside. Turbines and generators work once the hot oil turned into boiled water and then become steam.


Power Tower Systems

Also called central receivers, these use large and flat heliostats to find the sun and direct its rays to the receiver located on top of a tall tower wherein focused sunlight heats fluid into 1,050°F which can become steam for electricity generation or stored energy.

Dish Engine Systems

Mirrored dishes are necessary to focus sunlight onto a receiver that is fixed on the focal point of the dish. The dish arrangement follows the sun across the sky to capture a great quantity of solar energy. The receiver is combined into a high-efficiency combustion engine which has thin tubes comprising hydrogen or helium gases running along the outside of the engine’s four piston cylinders. As the focused sunlight moves to the receiver, it heats the gas in the tubes to extremely high temperatures causing hot gas to release inside the cylinders. The expanding gas runs the pistons, while the receiver, engine, and generator encompass a solo, combined assembly at the concentration of the mirrored dish.

CSP development is likely to expand internationally. Spain is the top user of CSP with a total capacity of 2,300 MW, followed by the United States with 1,740 MW, then the North Africa, Middle East, India, China, and Italy. There are some local and political disagreements about the usage of CSPs, but eventually and hopefully, CSP will push through because it is definitely a resourceful form of energy.

Especially in the use of solar power in Philippines, this will surely benefit a lot of Filipinos if ever it is widely implemented.

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