solar power

A Laymanís Description of the Solar Power Plant

These days, a new paradigm of thinking in terms of power has presented itself in amazing ways and the public at large is now looking to other forms of energy besides fossil fuels. Wave power, wind power, geothermal power and the one everyone is familiar with, solar power, are all viable forms of renewable energy. In fact, the sun is one of the most popular sources of alternative energy if the increasing solar power plant numbers across the world are anything to go by.

For centuries, solar power has been used in a variety of ways and it is just within the last half a century or so that the sun has received closer scrutiny. Today, there are three main types of the solar power plant Ė trough systems, power towers and a dish system, which resembles the shape of a satellite dish. The gist of these three types of solar power plants is that they use mirrors to capture the energy from the sun and turn it into very high temperature heat. From there, this high heat is used in a steam generator to produce energy.

The Trough System Solar Power Plant

The trough system solar power plant is comprised of rows of solar reflectors, which are shaped like a trough, mathematicians would call it a parabolic shape. These reflectors beam concentrations of light captured by the sun into a receiver. These rows of trough shaped reflectors rotate on a single axis for tracking the sunís positioning.

The heat that these reflectors beam to the receivers is then transferred to a power generating system. A fluid such as water or oil must flow through the receiver in order to capture the heat to transport to the generator for conversion into electricity. The trough solar power plant is the most efficient and developed of the three main types often used. Spain and California are home to several of these plants.

The Power Tower Solar Power Plant

The power tower solar power plant consists of a collection of heliostats (a flat reflective device) which tracks the movement of the sun. These heliostats beam concentration of light captured form the sun to a central receiving device positioned on a tower. While the trough system uses a single axis to track the sun, the power tower uses a dual axis. And, just like the trough solar power plant, the receivers also need a fluid in order to capture the heat to transfer to a energy storage system or a power generator. While not as technologically advanced, the power tower solar power plant is highly efficient and has great energy storage capacity.

The Dish System Solar Plant

Shaped much like a satellite dish, this huge dish is either one giant reflector or made up of smaller reflectors to capture the energy from the sun. The reflector or reflectors concentrate the light onto a receiver, which like the others requires fluid to capture the incredible heat, and is transferred to a special engine for the generation of energy for electricity. Many experts say that this dish system is perhaps the most efficient solar power plant concept so far because it can be scaled up and down. Las Vegas and places in Australia have this type of technology.

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solar power