Solar thermal power harnesses energy from the sun by using solar collectors that concentrate sunlight on a fluid that is subsequently sent to a steam-driven electricity generation system. Sunlight can also be converted directly to electricity using photovoltaic panels, wherein photons increase the energy level of electrons to produce an electric current. For utility-scale electricity generation, the current technologies for solar thermal power plants are more favorable than photovoltaic systems.
Role of Alternative Energy Sources: Solar Thermal Technology Assessment
Solar thermal power is viewed as a clean, renewable alternative to conventional fossil fuels for electricity generation. However, the resource base of solar thermal power is limited by several factors that inform the availability of direct sunlight at any given location. The high cost of solar collectors to support utility level output, water scarcity in areas of high solar potential, and lack of proximity of resources to population centers make it likely that high-quality solar thermal resources are expected to remain untapped for the foreseeable future.
Authors: Tim Skone, James Littlefield, Robert Eckard, Greg Cooney, Marija Prica, Joe Marriott, PhD
Date: August, 2012
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