Concentrated solar power (CSP) is a way of maximizing the energy generated from solar power. As the name suggests, concentrated solar power plants work by collecting sunlight in a large radius and concentrating it onto a small point, which alone carries the potential for conversion of solar power into electricity. This not only makes energy generation from solar power more cost-effective, due to the lack of energy conversion material in all collection points, but also makes it more efficient in terms of the actual generation of usable electric power.
The need for an efficient and renewable energy source in the modern world is driving the global concentrated solar power market. According to research recently published by leading market analysis company Transparency Market Research, the global market for concentrated solar power is expected to grow more than threefold between 2014 and 2020, rising from a valuation of US$2.5 bn in 2013 to an estimated US$8.6 bn in 2020 at a dazzling 19.4% CAGR.
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Parabolic Trough Concentrated Solar Power Generators Leading Demand for CSP
Of the various types of solar power generators used in concentrated solar generators, parabolic trough generators dominate demand from the global concentrated solar power market. Parabolic trough generators work much like a concave mirror, with a curved slab of mirrors concentrating sunlight onto a central node, which then transmits the solar energy to be used in generation of electricity. Due to the simplicity of this design, parabolic troughs are expected to remain dominant in the concentrated solar power market.
Incorporation of Thermal Energy Storage to Propel CSP Market
The major difficulty for concentrated solar power generation has been the same hindrance that has plagued all renewable power sources: what happens when the sunlight stops?
Like wind farms becoming useless when the wind stops blowing and tidal energy generation delivering an inconsistent output, concentrated solar power can be difficult to harness at times when sunlight isn’t at its brightest, or absent altogether. However, the addition of thermal energy storage to concentrated solar power generators represents a major step to CSP becoming a viable source of power all over the world.
‘Plonk-down’ CSP Generators Offer Lifeline to Global Concentrated Solar Power Market
In August 2015, researchers at the Stellenbosch University came up with a masterstroke in concentrated solar power generator design. Instead of constructing the conventional massive and thus cost-intensive CSP generator complex, the Helio100 project concentrated on making the CSP generators more portable.
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The device consists of six mirrors, triangular in shape, connected to a remote system that keeps the concentrated sunlight focused regardless of the position of the sun. The mirrors on this device don’t need concrete support, which is the key aspect helping its portability.
Designed in South Africa, where electricity is infrequent but the supply of solar power is abundant, this heliostat can be of great use in other regions with similar conditions, such as Southeast Asia. Europe, which accounted for 43% of the global concentrated solar power market in 2013, is also set to be a major regional player in the coming years, due to the ease of harnessing solar power in Southern European countries.