Technology

Solar Thermal

The most efficient means of harnessing solar energy today, solar thermal technology generates the highest amount of electricity per unit area than any other form of renewable energy. Our technology produces from 50 to 250 megawatts (MW) per power plant because it combines the benefits of solar panel technology (which absorbs the heat of solar radiation) with that of photovoltaic cells (which generate electricity from sunlight).

“Solar thermal power plants” is a general term referring to the various technologies that focus sunlight using reflectors, such as parabolic troughs, Fresnel reflector power plants, tower power plants, or solar dishes. With these concentrating systems, the captured heat energy is usually fed into a steam cycle at temperatures significantly over 212 degrees. As with conventional power plants, the steam is then used in a turbine to generate electricity.

Our technology concentrates primarily on parabolic trough power plants. This technology is already in commercial use and has been tested over several years. Parabolic trough power plants have been in successful commercial operation in California since 1985 and are commonly drawn on during peak energy periods in the summer. They have already generated over 12 billion kilowatt hours of solar electricity, which equates to providing about 12 million people with electricity for one year.

The Blythe Solar Power facility will house four 250 MW power plants and will produce 2.2 million MW hours of energy each year. It will do so by incorporating our award-winning HelioTrough technology which uses hundreds of trough-shaped mirrors to focus solar radiation onto a pipe that runs along the focal line of the collector. Absorption of this radiation will cause a heat transfer fluid to be heated in the pipe. That heat transfer will generate steam in the power block through heat exchangers. Then, as with conventional power plants, that steam will be directed into a turbine to generate power.

How a parabolic trough power plant operates

The following animation shows the operation of a parabolic trough power plant with thermal storage. The technology illustrated here is used in the Spanish Andasol power plants developed by Solar Millennium, AG the parent company of Solar Trust of America, LLC.

To view the animation click on the image above. You will need a flash player in order to be able to play it. This can be downloaded free from adobe.com

Click to view the operation of parabolic trough power plant

Award-winning HelioTrough solar collector technology is cost-efficient and more productive

Helio Trough Helio Trough
Helio Trough

At the center of each of our solar thermal power plant facilities is our new award-winning HelioTrough solar collector technology, which provides approximately 10 percent more in thermal output and is 10 percent more cost-efficient than its predecessor, the SKAL-ET solar collector. The new mirrors are 66 feet long and 23 feet wide, which is a 50 percent larger area than the previous SKAL-ET. Larger components make the units easy to install and maintain, have driven down logistics and labor costs, while the more efficient collector boosts thermal output.

Thousands of HelioTrough collectors will be installed at each of our solar power plant facilities in California and Nevada. At our Blythe facility, the collectors are organized into approximately 280 loops. Each loop has four collectors.

The HelioTrough collector was developed along with partners by Flagsol GmbH Cologne, a technology subsidiary of our parent company Solar Millennium, AG. Prior to installing a 2,624-foot demonstration loop at a solar thermal power plant in the U.S., the new collector was first tested in a factory hall in Germany to evaluate the innovative assembly concept and verify the geometric precision. The early phases of the research and development project were promoted by the German Federal Environment Ministry, whereas the demonstration project in California is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The amount of energy supplied by the collector surpasses even the high expectations we had calculated in preliminary analysis. We believe that makes the HelioTrough the most efficient collector in the market.