Harnessing the power of the sun is a concept that has been around for centuries, but only recently has it become a viable option for generating electricity. Solar energy works by converting energy from the sun into energy that can be used to power homes and businesses. The amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface in an hour and a half is enough to manage the energy consumption of the entire world for an entire year. Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy using photovoltaic (PV) panels or by means of mirrors that concentrate solar radiation.
This energy can be used to generate electricity or be stored in batteries or thermal storage. It can also be used as a rotating reserve to delay the commitment of additional fossil-fuel power generation units. Using small-scale local power generation means that transmission lines don't have to traverse vast tracts of land to bring electricity to isolated areas. A solar power tower uses a series of tracking reflectors (heliostats) to concentrate light in a central receiver on a tower.
When needed, such as at night or during rush hours, heat is released by passing molten salt through a heat exchanger and a steam generator that drives a turbine to produce electricity. The vast majority of electricity produced worldwide is used immediately because traditional generators can adapt to demand and storage is often more expensive. The deployment of solar power generation is causing total installed capacity to increase at a dizzying pace. The annual power generation of a CSP plant is the product of the annual efficiency of the CSP plant and the normal direct solar irradiance that has been projected in the opening area of the concentration field.
They are designed to generate moderate amounts of electricity, requiring a small amount of land; therefore, they can be placed in local electrical distribution systems at both generation and use points. The productivity of solar energy in a region depends on solar irradiance, which varies throughout the day and year and is influenced by latitude and climate. Solar power generation offers endless opportunities for countries in solar-rich areas; however, more efficient and cost-effective small-scale solar-to-electricity technologies are required. CSP enjoys the advantages of comparatively mature techniques, low power generation costs and minor impacts on the power grid; therefore, it has been considered the most promising among several modes of renewable energy generation.
The heliostat field surrounds a concrete solar power tower that is 540 feet high with a 100 foot high receiver at the top. Using sky imagers to provide forecasts over a localized spatial area has the potential to provide the accurate, high-resolution, short-term forecasts required by power generation, transmission, and distribution communities. Meanwhile, the CSP thermal working conversion is partly similar to that of a conventional thermal generating unit. Solar energy is an increasingly viable option for generating electricity, with its potential for powering homes and businesses as well as providing an alternative source of energy for traditional fossil fuel generators. With advances in technology, more efficient and cost-effective small-scale solar-to-electricity technologies are being developed, making it easier than ever before for countries in solar-rich areas to take advantage of this renewable resource.