Solar thermal power plants
Solar Millennium AG, Erlanger, Germany
The solar thermal power plant technology, the opportunities it presents and the developments in the market are outlined. The focus is on the technology of parabolic trough power plants, a proven technology for solar power generation on a large scale. In a parabolic trough power plant, trough-shaped mirrors concentrate the solar irradiation onto a pipe in the focal line of the collector. The thermal energy thus generated is used for electricity generation in a steam turbine. Parabolic trough plants can be combined with thermal storage and fossil or biomass fired heat exchangers to generate electricity even when the sun is not shining. Solar Millennium AG in Erlangen has developed the first power plant of this kind in Europe. After two years of construction the plant started operation in Southern Spain in 2008. This one and its sister projects are important steps leading the way for the whole market. The paper also covers the technological challenges, the key components used and the research and development activities concerning this technology. Solar thermal power plants are ideal for covering peak and medium loads in power grids. In hybrid operation they can also cover baseload. The Solar Chimney power plant, another striking technology for the conversion of solar into electric energy, is described briefly. The paper concludes with a look at the future – the import of solar energy from the deserts of North Africa to central Europe.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2009