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Solar Power – Part 2

In our Solar Power – Part 1 section, we briefly touched upon PVs, or solar-powered photovoltaics. Here, we’ll take a closer look at concentrated solar power.

Concentrating the sun’s power is nothing new. Legend claims that famous Greek mathematician and architect Archimedes used polished shields in order to concentrate sunlight on the invading Roman fleet, thereby repelling them from Syracuse. For the first solar steam engine in 1866, Auguste Mouchout used a parabolic trough to produce steam.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) systems use lenses / mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large patch of sunlight into a small beam. This beam of concentrated heat is then used as a heat source for conventional power plants. Mouchout had it right – the most developed concentrating technology is the parabolic trough, along with the concentrating linear fresnel reflector, the solar power tower, and the Stirling dish. As far as tracking and focusing light goes, various techniques are currently used. The commonality between them is that in all cases a working fluid is heated by the concentrated sunlight, which is then used for power generation.

There’s a new method of electricity generation being used, and its a mixture of direct (photovolaics) and indirect (concentrated) energy generation methods. This is known as concentrating photovoltaics (CVP). CPV systems employ sunlight that’s concentrated onto photovoltaic surfaces in order to produce electrical power. A wide variety of solar concentrators may be used, which are typically mounted on a solar tracker and exist to keep the the focal point on the cell as the sun moves steadily across the sky. Tracking greatly improves efficiency – in fact, tracking can increase flat panel photovoltaic output by a healthy 20% during winter, and up to 50% during summer months.

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Please keep in mind that there are always advances being made to the field. We do try to stay up to date but we realize that from time to time we might have dated information. We always appreciate and utilize any updated information you may want to send to us.


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