Solar concentrators can
also be used in photovoltaic solar applications to concentrate the
energy onto the solar panel itself. This allows the panel to create
much more energy and be more efficient as it is exposed to a much
larger amount of sunlight than it normally would be without the
collector to redirect the rays directly on the panel.
concentrators are also used in solar
thermal power stations around the
globe, and they are the most effective way of producing electricity
through solar energy. A solar thermal collector utilizes a large array
of solar concentrators or mirrors to redirect and concentrate the sun’s
energy onto a focal point. This focal point has reach temperatures in
excess of 2000 degrees Celsius.
In a solar thermal power
solar thermal energy generated at the focal point is then transferred
to water to make it boil and create steam. This steam is then used to
run a steam
turbine to create electricity. Solar concentrated energy
seems to be the way of the future, as it is possible to create much
more energy in a smaller space than with photovoltaic solar power.
History of Solar
The history of
concentrated solar power stretches back to the time of
the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The first recorded use of solar
concentrators was sometime in the 4th Century B.C. when priests in
Ancient Greece used mirrors to concentrate and redirect the sun’s rays
onto a focal point in order to light fires and torches for religious
ceremonies. The Ancient Romans and the Chinese also used concentrated
solar power in the same way around the same time.
One of the most
interesting historical accounts of the use of
concentrated solar power comes from the 2nd Century B.C. It was
reported that a Greek scientist named Archimedes used a large array of
bronze shields arranged around a bay in the sea to reflect and
concentrate the sun’s rays onto the ships of the Greeks enemies, thus
setting them on fire.
No one is quite sure
whether this actually
happened, although it is very possible in theory if the sunlight can be
concentrated well enough onto a small enough focal point to create
extremely high temperatures capable of lighting a wooden ship on fire.
The Greek Navy and attempted and succeeded and recreating this feat in
1973 using the same technologies that were available at the time.
Modern Uses of
Concentrated Solar Power
As previously mentioned,
concentrated solar power can and is used to
create some of the world’s largest solar power stations. In fact, the
current record holder for the largest solar power plant belongs to
Andasol in Spain, which is a huge concentrated solar power station.
However, there are many other uses of concentrated solar energy as
The simplest type of solar
collector is a solar
utilizes a technique known as passive solar heating. In this technique,
the building itself is the solar collector and the roof of the building
is designed to redirect light into the structure where it is then
trapped to heat the building. This type of solar thermal collector can
and is also used to heat homes and other buildings around the
Other projects that can be
built using this technology include a solar
sauna and a solar
wood drying kiln. Many examples of these structures
can be found right here on this website. You can even find plans and
instructions so you
can easily design and build your own building to take advantage of
concentrated solar energy.
Solar greenhouses and
of solar thermal collectors have been used since
Greeks and Romans used it to help heat their buildings, and is still
extremely popular especially with those who try to build carbon neutral
homes. While greenhouses or passive
solar homes are some of
the examples of using a solar collector, they are far from the only
ones out there. Another use of concentrated solar power that has been
around for centuries is a solar
A solar cooker functions in
basically the same way as a solar greenhouse or solar sauna, in that
extreme levels of heat are created inside a well insulated structure.
This is accomplished by allowing light and heat from the sun to pass
through the roof of the structure where it is then trapped
This requires that the
structure be extremely well insulated
and airtight, or else all of the heat will be allowed to escape and the
concentrator will not function as effectively.
There are two distinct
types of solar cookers and each uses a different form of solar
A solar box cooker is
essentially a very small version of
a greenhouse, where heat passes through the lid and is then trapped and
stored inside to heat up the box and thus allow it to cook food or boil
The other type is a parabolic solar collector,
uses the same technology that Archimedes used in the 2nd Century B.C.
These solar cookers use a parabolic mirror, similar to the ones used in
solar thermal power stations, to redirect and concentrate the sun’s
light and heat onto a focal point to create high temperatures. Food is
then placed in the focal point and is thus cooked by the high
temperatures created by the parabolic concentrator.
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