Solar power plant
Thermoelectric

What is solar thermal energy?

What is solar thermal energy?

Thermosolar energy is a technology to generate electricity or electricity by thermal energy from the Sun (solar heat). It is a type of solar thermal energy. Solar thermal energy is characterized by using solar radiation to heat a fluid. This hot fluid (usually water) can be used for many applications such as heating or hot water (DHW). But another application that can be given is the generation of electric power.

This type of energy is also often called thermoelectric power.

This process of electricity generation takes place in the so-called thermoelectric solar or solar thermal power plants. The first thermosolar power plants were built in Europe and Japan in the early 1980s.

The main advantage over fossil fuel power plants is that clean, abundant and renewable energy can be obtained.

The main drawback is in the schedule and the meteorology that do not allow to generate a quantity of constant electrical energy. Initially the first power plants could only operate during the hours of solar irradiation, but today it is possible to store the heat during the day to produce electricity at night.

Operation of a solar thermal power plant

The operation of a thermosolar plant is similar to that of a thermal power plant or a nuclear power plant. The distinctive element between them is fuel, a very significant difference. Thermal power plants use fossil fuels such as coal or gas to generate heat, nuclear power plants use nuclear energy to generate thermal energy, while thermoelectric power plants use solar radiation.

The solar rays are concentrated by mirrors in a receiver that reaches temperatures of up to 1,000º C. This heat energy is used to heat a fluid and generate steam. The steam generated, which has a high pressure allows a turbine to move a turbine. At the same time, this turbine will power a generator that will be in charge of generating the electric energy.

Throughout this process, energy is transformed. First we have solar radiation, which is transformed into heat energy by impacting solar collectors. This heat is transported by a fluid which will then become vapor. The steam drives a turbine, at this time, the heat energy is transformed into mechanical energy of rotation. Finally the turbine drives a generator by transforming the mechanical energy into electrical energy.

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Last review: March 29, 2017

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