Solar Thermal Electricity (STE) technology, also called Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), provides clean and reliable power from 10kW to 200 MW and even more. The power commercial solar thermal power plants were built in the 80ís and the current global installed capacity is almost 900 MW.
In Europe 11 plants with an installed capacity of more than 430 MW are currently connected to the grid, another 16 plants are under construction and more than 30 projects are pre-assigned.
At different stages of technical development, there are 4 main STE technologies to produce electricity from the sun: parabolic troughs, tower technology, Dish Stirling and Fresnel. Each technology will progress depending on favorable policy framework, capacity to reduce generation costs and to satisfy the specific needs of the power market.
In Europe the installed capacity of parabolic trough plants operating reaches 400 MW and 650 MW are under construction. Parabolic trough technology is the most mature available on the market with a track record since the 1980ís. The typical size of a parabolic trough plant is 50 MW in Europe, specific land requirements like flat, sunny areas are necessary.
The first commercial tower plant has begun operation in June 2007 in Spain (11 MW) and a second one is now operating (20MW). The typical size for a tower plant is up to 50 MW, and specific land requirements are less restrictive than for parabolic troughs.
In Europe only pilot plants are in operation so far. The typical size of a Stirling module is 10kW to 25kW, the size of a plant can vary accordingly to any demand and specific land requirements are negligible.
In Europe 1 plant based on the Fresnel principle is currently operating (1.4 MW) and another one is under construction (30 MW). The operating principle is the same as for the parabolic trough technology except that the mirrors are flat.