Solar FAQs — Concentrating Solar Power — The Basics
A: The real powerhouse in CSP plants is focused sunlight. CSP plants generate electric power by using mirrors to concentrate (focus) the sun's energy and convert it into high-temperature heat. That heat is then channeled through a conventional generator. The plants consist of two parts: one that collects solar energy and converts it to heat, and another that converts the heat energy to electricity. Within the United States, over 350MW of CSP capacity exists and these plants have been operating reliably for more than 15 years.
A: Some of the following documents are available as Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Download Acrobat Reader.
For more information about trough systems, see the following documents:
Technology Characterization: Solar Parabolic Trough (PDF 303 KB)
A: They all make use of the abundant energy of sunlight. But they differ in the ways that they capture and use solar energy to produce heat or electricity. Most solar water- and space-heating technologies, for example, use sunlight directly to produce heat rather than using the sun's heat to produce steam that drives a generator to produce electricity, the way CSP does.