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WIREs Energy Environ.

Solar thermal CSP technology

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Solar thermal concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, because of their capacity for large‐scale generation of electricity and the possible integration of thermal storage devices and hybridization with backup fossil fuels, are meant to supply a significant part of the demand in countries of the solar belt. Nowadays, the market penetration of solar thermal electricity is steeply increasing, with commercial projects in Spain, USA, and other countries, being the most promising technology to follow the pathway of wind and photovoltaics to reach the goals for renewable energy implementation in 2020 and 2050. In the first commercial projects involving parabolic‐trough technology, some improvements are being introduced like the use of large molten‐salt heat storage systems able to provide high degrees of dispatchability to the operation of the plant, like the plants Andasol in Guadix, Spain, with 7.5 h of nominal storage, or the use of direct steam generation loops to replace thermal oil at the solar field. In the near future, the research and innovation being conducted within the field of linear Fresnel collectors may lead to high temperature systems able to operate up to 500°C and produce cost‐effective superheated steam. Central receiver systems are opening the field to new thermal fluids like molten salts (Gemasolar tower plant in Seville, Spain) with more than 14 h of nominal storage and air, and new solar receivers like volumetric absorbers, allowing operation at temperatures above 1000°C. All these factors can lead to electricity generation cost reduction of CSP plants by 30–40% for the period 2010–2020, according to public roadmaps and cost analysis made by the International Energy Agency in 2010. WIREs Energy Environ 2014, 3:42–59. doi: 10.1002/wene.79

The authors have declared no conflicts of interest in relation to this article.

Flow diagram for a typical solar thermal power plant.
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Scheme of compact LFR system with a multitower array and dynamic aiming strategy of mirror strips.
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Schematic of a molten‐salt central receiver system with cylindrical tubular receiver (EPGS: electric power generating system).
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Aerial view of Gemasolar plant, property of Torresol Energy© Torresol Energy, located in South Spain. At present, it is the largest commercial solar central receiver system with a circular‐shape heliostat field. Reproduced by permission of Torresol Energy.
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Different configurations of solar receivers. From left to right and top to bottom: (a) external tubular cylindrical, (b) cavity tubular, (c) billboard tubular, and (d) volumetric.
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Aerial view of power island and detail of molten‐salt storage tanks and heat exchangers of Andasol plant in Guadix, Spain. This 50 MW plant stores thermal energy excess in 28,500 tons of nitrate molten salts able to provide up to 7.5 equivalent hours of operation at nominal capacity. Reproduced by permission of ACS/Cobra Energía (Spain).
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Schematic diagrams of the four STE systems currently scaled up to pilot and demonstration sizes.
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Parabolic‐trough plant introducing a molten‐salt circuit with two storage tanks to increment capacity factor.
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Typical parabolic‐trough collector.
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