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FAQ: A concentrated power boost for solar energy
Written by Daniel   
Wednesday, 01 August 2007 13:38
FAQ: A concentrated power boost for solar energy
By Martin LaMonica
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: August 1, 2007, 9:15 AM
Concentrating solar power, which has been around for decades, is one of the most promising techniques being tried today to make solar electricity more cost effective.

The concept is simply to focus light in order to boost electricity output. But there's a wide disparity in the types of solar concentrators being built, from utility-scale solar thermal projects to specialized photovoltaic solar panels that could one day go on a homeowner's roof.

In this FAQ, we will specifically discuss concentrating photovoltaics, a design being pursued by a number of solar companies seeking to lower the cost per kilowatt the sun can deliver.

What are the primary forms of solar concentrators?
Solar concentrators use lenses, mirrors, parabolic dishes or other optics to concentrate energy from the sun. Very often, they have a mechanism so that these devices track the path of the sun during the day. In solar thermal applications, troughs or large mirrors amplify sunlight to create heat, which heats a liquid or gas that turns turbines to make electricity. Solar thermal is used for large-scale power plants operated by utilities, usually in the desert. After a 16-year hiatus, companies are opening up new plants or contemplating new ones in the southwestern U.S., India, southern Europe and North Africa.

This same technique is also being pursued in conjunction with photovoltaic solar cells, which convert light to electricity. Among concentrating photovoltaic companies, there is a wide range of approaches. There are systems designed for utilities' central power stations, mounted concentrators that can go on the roof of an office building, and those that are the same size as traditional solar panels.... More

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