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Solar Thermal Electricity Generation

Electricity from solar thermal plants

After early successes  in the USA at the end  of the 1980s, a new market  is now developing for solar thermal power  stations in Southern Europe, the USA and  in some  developing sunbelt countries. Three types of solar thermal power  stations have evolved  here:

•   Parabolic  trough systems
•   Solar tower  systems
•   Dish Stirling systems

By 2010, experts expect some  400 MW of newly installed  power output in Europe and  about 2000 MW worldwide. German industrial  firms are taking  a leading role in these  develop- ments. From about 2030, electricity imports from solar thermal power  stations in Southern Europe or North  African countries using  high voltage  direct  current transmission into the European electricity grid will be able to make an important contribution to the European electrical landscape. Investor consortia are putting a figure of 12 to 15 cents  per kWh on the cost of generating electricity in commercial solar thermal power  stations which  are in the planning stage  at present. Going  down  the learning curve, full competitiveness with medium or base  load electricity could  be reached at good locations  by 2030, with 15 GW being  installed  worldwide if research and development is continued.

Research and  development requirements

One  particularly  important approach to cost reduction is to increase  the exit temperature of the concentrating solar systems  in order  to achieve  better efficiency in the downstream power  station. This would  enable the same electrical  energy  to be generated from smaller collector  surface.  All three  solar thermal power station  types would  also benefit  from:
•   Automation of plant  operation
•   Development of cost-effective thermal energy  storage
•   Reducing  the weight of collectors  and concentrators


Parabolic trough technology

•   Further  development of direct  solar steam (DISS) technology
•   Selective solar absorber layers for high temperatures of around 500°C
•   Development of new optical  concentrator concepts, e.g.  Fresnel reflector  systems


Solar  tower technology

•   Technological development for coupling solar heat  to gas turbines to tap  the high temperature potential
•   Development of cost-effective mirrors and highly reflective mirrors


Dish Stirling technology

•   Development of solar/fossil and solar/biomass hybrid  system  configurations



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