About Concentrated Solar Power
In the context of an energy transition towards low-carbon energy sources, renewable energies in general and solar energy in particular, have a central role to play.
Solar power has experienced significant growth over the years, with global electricity consumption from solar sources reaching approximately 1,300 TWh (source: Our World in Data). Within the solar sector, there are two main technologies: photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP).
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) focuses on generating electricity through thermal energy. Thermal energy accounts for two-thirds of the world's industries’ energy consumption and for one-fifth of the world’s total energy consumption. Photovoltaic Panels (PV) on the other hand directly convert sunlight into electric energy. The choice between the two technologies depends on factors such as energy needs, location, cost, and the availability of sunlight.
Thermal energy produced by Concentrated Solar Power can be stored and used when needed, day or night. 🌗 This is where thermal insulation comes into play: it is an indispensable element for storing thermal energy in a Concentrated Solar Power plant and for making the overall CSP process more efficient. Reducing heat loss, our thermal insulation solutions for CSP effectively insulate and protect the solar field pipes, molten salt storage tanks or even power island equipment.
Did you know?
In 2021, the global installed capacity of concentrated solar power was 6.8 GW compared to approximately 1.5 GW in 2011. Source: EASAC (European Academies' Science Advisory Council)
What is Concentrated Solar Power?
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technologies use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver, generating thermal energy. This heat can be used to generate electricity through a steam engine connected to an electricity generator.
This technology is most often used for large-scale projects and can notably be used in a variety of industrial applications such as:
- Water desalination
- Enhanced oil recovery
- Food processing
- Chemical production
- Mineral processing
Concentrated Solar Power plants can include thermal energy storage using molten salts or a heat transfer fluid, making CSP a dispatchable solar energy source. Effective thermal insulation is crucial for optimal energy efficiency in all pipes and storage tanks. ISOVER has developed a unique range of products perfectly suited to Concentrated Solar Power plants.
Did you know?
With the right thermal insulation in a Concentrated Solar Power plant, the hot liquid can be stored for up to 10 hours.
Benefits of Concentrated Solar Power
- Meets the thermal energy needs of heavy industries, enabling the replacement of conventional fuels such as natural gas and contributing to industrial decarbonisation.
- Makes smaller, dispatchable power plants economically feasible.
- Reduces investment costs by increasing the efficiency of converting sunlight to energy.
- Complements other energy sources.
Why does a Concentrated Solar Plant require insulation?
A major issue in the widespread use of solar energy is that power generation decreases at night or when clouds block the sun. This highlights the importance of efficient heat storage solutions.
There are several technologies for storing thermal energy from the sun, but generally it is in the form of a hot liquid, in a huge storage tank, either in molten salts (at around 565°C) or in a heat transfer fluid (at around 400°C). When needed, it is sent to a heat exchanger which turns water into steam by boiling it. The steam powers a turbine that generates electricity in a power plant.
Insulation plays a critical role in maintaining stored heat at the correct temperature and preventing excessive heat loss over time (up to 10 hours). Proper insulation ensures the stored thermal energy remains usable and efficient when needed, thus contributing to the overall efficiency of the CSP system.
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) vs. Photovoltaic (PV)
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Photovoltaic (PV) are two technologies used to harness solar energy, but they operate in different ways and have distinct characteristics:
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) systems use mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight onto a small area, called a receiver. The concentrated sunlight heats up a heat transfer fluid, in which it is stored as thermal energy, before being used to produce electricity. CSP is a dispatchable solar energy and is often used in large-scale power plants.
Photovoltaic Panels (PV) directly convert sunlight into electricity using semiconductor materials like silicon. When sunlight hits PV cells, it releases electrons, creating an electric current. Unlike CSP systems, photovoltaic systems do not store energy. PV systems are commonly used on rooftops, solar farms, and smaller-scale applications.
In Concentrated Solar Power systems, thermal insulation plays a key role for efficient thermal energy storage. In Photovoltaic systems, the use of insulation is limited to protecting components and wiring, which indirectly contributes to the system's efficiency and longevity.
By providing a reliable and clean source of energy, both concentrated solar power and photovoltaic panels have the potential to significantly reduce the global carbon footprint.
Solutions for an optimal CSP insulation
For optimal performance of your Concentrated Solar Power plant, ISOVER offers a range of effective solutions guaranteeing the maintenance of the storage fluid at the right temperature, avoiding heat loss and ensuring energy efficiency:
• For the solar field: TECH Pipe Section MT 4.1
• For salt tanks: TECH Slab MT 5.1 or TECH Wired Mat HT 6.1 and U TECH Roll 4.0
• For the power island: TECH Pipe Section MT 4.1 and TECH Wired Mat MT 5.1 and TECH Wired Mat MT 6.1
Why choose ISOVER insulation solutions?
● Energy efficiency
● Easy and fast installation
● Technical and specification support
● Thermal calculations
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