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One of the most widely used solar system is solar thermal electricity.

Solar thermal

electricity can be defined as the electricity produced with a heat to electricity conversion

system, which harvests heat solely from sun (D. Mills). Solar thermal electricity plants

collect and store thermal energy rather than generating direct electricity oppose to

photovoltaic panels. Solar thermal plants are better at producing electricity for long periods

of time as thermal energy can be easily stored in fluids with isolation, however photovoltaic

cells produce more electricity at sun peak hours. Solar thermal power plants, also called

concentrated solar plants (CSP) are listed as a liable method for bulk electricity

production from 10MW to 1000MW(Cit 4). The popularity of fossil fuels shadowed

renewable energy sources, therefore solar energy like other renewable energy sources could

not get enough funding to develop sophisticated technologies. Fortunately, potential of the

solar thermal systems are nowadays worldwide recognized and new CSP technologies

develop rapidly.

The working principle of solar thermal electricity systems is very similar to

conventional generators. Solar thermal power generation uses mirrors to reflect and

concentrate solar radiation in order to increase heat transfer solar thermal energy into the

carrying medium. Carrying mediums are mostly molten salts or oils that can be used to either

transfer or storage thermal energy. The wanted properties of carrying mediums are high heat

transfer rate and high specific heat capacity. After carrying medium absorbs the energy, it

goes through heat exchanger to transfer its thermal energy and generate steam. System

generates power as generated steam rotates turbines like in conventional power plants.

Therefore, solar thermal power generation uses same principles as conventional plants after

steam is formed. Conventional power plants use energy in fossil fuels to form steam

while thermal energy of solar radiation is used in solar thermal electricity plants (p. 322

). These similarities allow solar thermal electricity to fit in and work with conventional
systems. Cooperation between conventional and thermal electricity plants are principally

same as hybrid cars with both petrol and electric motors. Usage of solar thermal systems in

addition to conventional system provides power plants with higher efficiency, lower costs,

decreased environmental effects; adds thermal storage capacity and ensures continuous

energy production. Thanks to solar thermal plants’ flexibility they can be used in wide variety

of markets, which are bulk power, remote power, process heat energy and desalination.

Rapid advancements increase importance of the design. Improvements in design

provides better integration with existing systems, higher efficiency, better collection of solar

energy, better thermal transfer rate, higher thermal storage capacity, longer power plant life

cycle and continuity of electric production. A solar power plant needs a solar collector,

thermal energy storage and a steam generator to produce electricity from the sun light. A

solar collector is a specific heat exchanger which transfers solar radiation energy to carrying

medium as thermal energy. Collector absorbs solar irradiation as heat to transfer it to carrying

medium. Thermal energy of carrying medium can be either used to produce electricity or to

store thermal energy in insulated tanks. There are two main types of collectors, non-

concentrating and concentrating collectors. Non-concentrating collectors have the same area

for both receiving solar radiation and transferring thermal energy and they can be combined

with photovoltaic cells in order to increase production and efficiency. Non-concentrating

solar collectors can be classified into three categories flat plate, hybrid photovoltaic thermal

and bifacial photovoltaic thermal collectors. A flat plate collector is a fixed collector oriented

to sun in order to gather as much as sun light possible and transfers collected energy to

carrying medium. A hybrid photovoltaic thermal collector is also a flat plate collector and has

a photovoltaic module and a heat absorber plate. These two modules work together,

photovoltaic module produces electricity directly from sun light, while heat absorber plate
transfers excess heat from photovoltaic module to carrying medium. The plate cools the

photovoltaic module down for better electrical performance and heats carrying medium for

thermal electricity processes. Bifacial photovoltaic thermal collector, also called enhanced

hybrid photovoltaic thermal collector is basically a hybrid PVT collector that works only with

water or air as carrying medium. These collectors use a few centimeters thick water or air

layer to reduce optical reflection and thermal drift in the system. According to

demonstrations in 2007 a bifacial PVT system is capable of producing forty percent

more electricity than a hybrid PVT collector without any visible increase in collector

expense(Cit 7). However non-concentrating collectors need more surface area for installment

and cannot achieve as high as heating temperatures like concentrating collectors in order

achieve higher efficiency in Carnot cycle therefore in modern thermal electricity plants

mostly used concentrating collectors while non-concentrating collectors are mostly used

when large surface area and longer sun peak hours are ensured. Concentrating collectors have

reflecting surfaces to concentrate solar irradiation in a smaller receiving area therefore

collectors produce higher heat flux for better efficiency in thermodynamic cycle. There are

three types of concentrating collectors which are heliostat field, parabolic dish and parabolic

trough collectors. Heliostat field collectors has a flat reflective panels and mostly equipped

with sun tracking technology in order to increase efficiency.