Concentrated Solar Power: Technology brief


January 2013

This brief examines the process of concentrating solar power (CSP), a key renewable energy source with the additional benefit of energy storage potential. CSP plants use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver, which collects and transfers solar energy to a heat-transfer fluid. This can be used to supply heat for end-use applications or to generate electricity through conventional steam turbines. Large CSP plants can be equipped with a heat-storage system, allowing for heat supply or electricity generation at night or when the sky is cloudy.

CSP plants require high direct solar irradiance, making them an interesting option for Sun Belt countries, situated within the area 40 degrees north and south of the equator. The technical potential of CSP-based electricity generation in most of these regions is typically many times higher than their electricity demand, creating opportunities for electricity export through high-voltage lines.

This brief focuses on three key aspects of CSP development:

  • Process and Technology Status;
  • Performance and Costs;
  • Potential and Barriers.

Successive technology briefs have highlighted a wide range of renewable energy solutions. Each brief outlines technical aspects, costs, market potential and barriers, combined with insights for policy makers on how to accelerate the transition to renewables.